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Unions protests, main roads and highways blocked #549615
04/19/21 03:45 PM
04/19/21 03:45 PM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 79,940
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP
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Unions Calling for Week Long Protests

The Belize National Teacher’s Union (BTNU), the Association of Public Service Senior Managers (PSU), and the Public Service Union have rejected the government’s proposed 10% salary cut. To further pressure the government, they have planned a week-long series of industrial actions expected to culminate with a massive nationwide strike. The first event took place on Monday, April 19th, as members of the unions blocked main highways leading to Belize City on the mainland. The traffic blockage on Monday concentrated in and at the entrances to Belize City. No activity was reported in San Pedro. Adhering to protocol, the jam was only allowed for 15 minutes and saw blockages on the Haulover Bridge of the Philip Goldson Highway, north of Belize City. At the Hattieville Bridge on the George Price Highway south of the city and other key entrances to the old capital. Many commuters were affected, and those traveling on public transportation opted to walk the remaining distance to their destinations.

The protesters, teachers, and public officers parked their vehicles across the highway and popped open their hoods, purporting ‘mechanical problems.’ According to the schedule of activities, the days to come will see boycotts to places such as gas stations, appearances on tv/radio talk shows, boycotting telecommunication companies, and walking out of their workplaces.

Click here to read the rest of the article in the San Pedro Sun

Re: Unions protests, main roads and highways blocked [Re: Marty] #549621
04/20/21 05:09 AM
04/20/21 05:09 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 79,940
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP


The mornings of many Belizeans took an unexpected turn after their daily commute was disrupted by a major traffic jam. But it wasn't an ordinary jam - the BNTU staged a protest by parking their cars in the middle of the highways.

This blockage was a part of the industrial action they have planned for the week in response to GOB implementing the salary cuts, as the prime minister announced in his budget presentation a little over a week ago.

And while Friday's protest was picketing in front of BTL and SMART offices, today, the union members faked car failures, delaying commuters heading to work, school, and even to the airport to catch a flight. Courtney Menzies was on the scene at 7 this morning and has this story.

These teachers wearing their green union shirts are trying to fix their van, which appears to have broken down in the middle of the Haulover bridge.

They have caused a long line of traffic to be backed up on the Philip Goldson Highway at the most critical time in the morning - 7am when commuters are travelling to work and students are hoping to get to class on time.

Those in the buses eventually just started walking - having no other way to get to their destination.

Those in private vehicle didn't have that luxury, and just needed to wait - missing appointments and flights at the airport.

But the van's supposed engine failure wasn't coincidental - it was planned - as part of BNTU's series of protests.

Most wore their green shirts, and some held up their Bristol board signs.

But commuters, students, and travelers weren't the only persons held up. In the midst of the chaos, members of the search party for Herwin Godoy, who was suspected to have drown in Grace Bank Village, were unable to cross over the bridge.

But the BNTU members were unrelenting, insisting that the vehicle had some sort of mechanical failure and there was no one to fix it.

The President of the Belize Branch, Tanya Gillett, also played along when we tried to interview her.

"This is happening here and on the Western Highway though."

Tanya Gillett
"I guess so."

The blockage lasted for 15 minutes, leaving in its wake the frustration that can only be caused by a delay in one's morning routine.

But this was not just on the Philip Goldson Highway. The BNTU managed to block the George Price Highway at the junction of Chetumal Street and Faber's Road.

The members in other districts came out to block the roads in Carmelita, Dangriga, and also the Joe Taylor Bridge in Toledo.

And BNTU's president, Elena Smith, stood among the chaos to capture the disruption caused by the protest.

And after 15 minutes, the protest ended and traffic was allowed to pass as per normal - after plenty of complaints from those caught in the traffic jam, of course.

But BNTU's message was clear - they are still rejecting the proposed salary cuts by the government.

When we reached out to BNTU president, Elena Smith, she told us that the joint unions were engaged in virtual meetings all afternoon.

Reports are that the protests will continue tomorrow with a boycotting of gas stations.

Policing The Protests

And while the protests caused chaos for commuters, the police were out in full force maintaining order with the protesters. The teachers, though, were peaceful, which worked in the police's favor since the last time they dealt with a large group of protesters was at the Port of Belize and that… didn't end well.

That's why in this case, Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, instructed his officers to keep the calm, but don't engage unless absolutely necessary.

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police
"This morning at different times we had blockage of the highways across the country by the joint unions, particularly of the BNTU and PSU. The blockage did cause some inconvenience to some motorists particularly commuters who traverse the highway to go to work ever morning. And from a policing standpoint, our approach was to avoid any confrontation with the unions. We have seen in the past where the police have intervene in these activities and it just caused confrontation and then things get out of control, resulting in the injury of persons or the damage of properties and we wanted to avert that this morning so my instructions to my officers was to ensure we exercised great restraint. We would have done all we could to avert the blockage but in circumstances where the blockage had occurred, then we would not any degree of force to move them, instead what we would do was to maintain our presence to maintain law and order and allow the teachers or the joint union to have their fifteen minutes of fame and as soon as the fifteen minutes were over they would unblock the road and we would go about their merry way."

"We do understand the fact that the joint union have a week of activities that they would be embarking on. And I have said to the officers that we would avoid confrontation at every cost but we are going to ensure that we police the events to the best of our ability with a view to ensure that law and order is maintained that there is no injury to person or damage to properties. Historically, the teachers have been peaceful as well as the PSU and so we don't anticipate that they're going to do anything that is going to put our country in a more dire financial position as we currently are. I believe they are responsible enough to ensure that whatever is done, Is done within the limits of the law and at the same time to do not cause the government to incur further expenses to repair further damage`s that came about as a result of their protests."

"Yes it is going to put strain on our resources, we have to police the event, and at the end of the day it is not something we can ignore. We have our usual policing efforts we must do and now we have additional activities to police so yes it's going to put strain on our resources but at the end of the day it's something we must do."

The officers ensured that traffic went back to normal after exactly fifteen minutes of the blockage on the highways.

Channel 7

Re: Unions protests, main roads and highways blocked [Re: Marty] #549645
04/21/21 04:39 AM
04/21/21 04:39 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 79,940
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

PSU Takes Over Downtown

The joint unions have been busy this week with an agenda full of protests. Yesterday, they proceeded to block the highways leading to Belize City, and other roads across the country.

Well today, in Dangriga, both they BNTU and the PSU picketed in front of gas stations. But that's not all - the PSU members here in Belize City also took part in a brief lunchtime protest in downtown Belize City.

Courtney Menzies has this story.

The protests continue and today, members of the PSU and the BNTU were seen picketing in front of gas stations in Dangriga.

But the PSU took is a bit further by using their lunch break to "take over" downtown Belize City. They held their Bristol board signs high as they marched down Albert Street before gathering at Battlefield Park.

And while the numbers were low, the chairlady of the PSU's Belize City Branch said that was expected, and that their message is still being heard loud and clear.

Gayle Garcia, Chairlady, Belize City Branch, PSU
"I have not done an exact count but I would say at least a little fifty, more or less out here this afternoon."

"Did you expect more?"

Gayle Garcia, Chairlady, Belize City Branch, PSU
"Considering it's the 12 and 1, not really. The message being sent is that we don't support government's proposal for 10% salary cut and increment freeze for 3 years."

"Our intended audience is the general public and the government. In this activity this afternoon, and yes we're doing this jointly, each union coming together sending the government a loud message that we're not supporting the pay cut."

And Garcia said these members came out despite some being victimized at their workplaces.

Gayle Garcia, Chairlady, Belize City Branch, PSU
"Some are experiencing some victimization yes like some are not being able allowed to wear their yellow shirts at work, transfers as punitive measures, and other victimization, yes."

And regardless of the threat of further victimization, the members showed their solidarity as their yellow shirts lit up downtown Belize City during its lunchtime rush, saying they fully support their leadership.

Gayle Garcia, Chairlady, Belize City Branch, PSU

"Until the government backs down."

Gayle Garcia, Chairlady, Belize City Branch, PSU
"150%! And that's it, thank you."

Dean Says Industrial Action Will Continue

Late this evening, we were able to speak with the first vice president of the PSU, Dean Flowers, about the protests. He said that this is their way of showing resilience and that they will not back down. He advised the public and the government that similar industrial action will be seen throughout the rest of the week.

Dean Flowers, First Vice President, PSU
"Today you saw the continuation of our industrial actions where our trade dispute with the government is concerned. As we have informed the media we are heading down a path towards strike action and we are taking it one step at a time and until we get to that point these are the kind of actions that the public can see. Tomorrow, because of the amount of concerns that we are getting from members where the proposed salary cut is concern, more importantly the impact that it stands to have on them we have dedicated tomorrow to medical checkup day and so what you will see are several public officers visiting their nearest health centers to check their blood pressure. We also encourage those who are interested in getting the Covid19 vaccine to visit the nearest clinic in the different municipalities. We've also ask those who are currently experiencing anxiety and stress as a result of these last days of consultation of the government, to contact the ministry of public service to speak with the employee assistant program officer. That will be the kind of movements that you will see tomorrow public officers looking after their mental and health. The union has given the government notice of intended strike action. We are just being patient where our essential services are concerned. Effectively the government have thrown out the door in my view the 21 days' notice by way of the minister responsible in which he advised that he will not be doing the tribunal which he is required to do under the law. That's a legal matter and so we will respond to that letter accordingly, like I said all indications are that sooner rather later we are going to engage in full strike action against the government."

PSU Say They've Got the Public's Support

And while there was a lot of complaints from commuters who were late to work, school, or to catch a flight. But, according to Flowers, they are in the minority. He told us today that in the court of public opinion, the unions are on the winning side since most people are supportive of their cause. Here's how he put it.

Dean Flowers, First Vice President, PSU
"I have received several phone calls from members of the public including churches organizations who are saying we are on the right path. It all depends who you speak to, but I don't believe that the louder voice are those who are against the union. Were people inconvenience on Monday? yes, but I can tell you here in Belmopan other than one gentleman who was in a rush I can tell you that everybody else came down from their vehicle and offered unconditional support through the Belmopan branch and I can also tell you that they encouraged us to remain there for the remainder of the day, so clearly the sentiments that you are hearing is not the sentiments that I am hearing and like I said either way public officers have spoken, the police department have spoken, the nurses association, the lab technologist, public officers and it is that until such time that this government is for the benefit of Belizeans including those who may feel that they are at a disadvantage as a result of their loss and I sympathized with them. It shows the importance of unions, because if workers in the private sector are allowed to unionize freely I am quite sure that a lot of them would not have been victimized in my view in the manner in which they did, because let's face it the private sector did not lose money, they simply were not able to sustain the kind of profit margin that they are use to as a result of a broken system in which we see again corruption between the public and private sector, a system in which we see the avoidance and invasion of fair share of taxes." Flowers said that with their position of rejecting the salary cuts, they are also protecting businesses in the private sector, especially small businesses, who would benefit from the money cut from the salaries.

Police Prohibited From Protests

And while continued industrial action is how the Public Service Union chose to remind the public and the government that they cannot support the public service wage cut and increment freeze, the Police Association selected a less confrontational method.

A letter, which was drafted by the Association's Central Board, has been in circulation for a few days now. In it, the leadership of the Association makes it clear to the Briceno Government that its 2,000 or so members will suffer financially if and when the wage cut is implemented. Now, viewers may understand the challenges the Police Association faces while trying to represent the best interest of its members. As members of a disciplined force, police officers are not allowed to participate in traditional forms of protest. They are also not allowed to join unions.

In fact, the Police Act specifically states, quote, "...It shall not be lawful for a member of the Department to become a member of any trade union, or any association having for its objects, or one of its objects, to control or influence the pay, pensions, or conditions of service of the Police Department, and any member of the Department who contravenes this provision shall be disqualified from continuing to be a member of the Department..." End quote.

But the association is responsible for bringing welfare matters to the attention of the Police Commissioner and the government of the day. And that's specifically what they did when they penned a letter last week to the Minister of Home Affairs.

The letter is dated March 15th, and the Police Association opens by noting that they are engaging in a countrywide tour to consult its membership.

The Association says, quote, "During those consultations, many issues affecting our membership have been brought to the attention of the central board address these issues amicably. One issue of concern that has surfaced recently is the proposed 10% salary cut and hold on increments for public servants for three (3) years. The predominant sentiment of the membership is that a 10% salary cut and hold on increments for (3) three years will cause grave financial strain, may cause hesitancy in the performance of duties and may kindle illicit and unethical behaviors within the rank and file of the Belize Police Department.

Most police officers budget their expenses base on their monthly income and a 10% cut will surely cause them severe financial setbacks. Members expressed that many of them pay both a house mortgage and a loan which on average is $1000, and utilities on an average of $300 per month. Police commute to work, purchase food, and travel daily which, on average, will cost them approximately $500 per month (this is estimated at $25 per day for 20 days a month). A police officer's monthly average salary is approximately $2000 per month. After a 10% cut, a police officer will receive $1800. The average monthly salary for police officers has been exhausted already without catering for family expenses such as groceries, medication, and basic essentials. While a $200 pay cut might look insignificant to some people, for the police officers who make an average salary, this will cause some serious financial stress. As is, most police officers engage in extra work known as "Special Duty" in order to meet their financial obligations.

The Police Association notes that from the perspective of its membership, cops are on the frontlines while they fight crimes and risk their lives on the job, especially with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. They note that managers and supervisors will have a very difficult task of keeping officers motivated if the salary cuts are implemented.

The letter says, quote, "...The main incentive that police officers look forward to annually as a reward for their hard work and dedication are their increments. If this is place on hold for three (3) years, further dissuasion will occur within the ranks and police officers will not perform their duties diligently and to the best of their abilities..."

And then, the Association notes the wage cut could cause officers to resort to illicit and unethical behaviors as people in authority. As viewers are aware, the department has had past struggles with allegations of corruption, and the Association is warning, that the wage cut could cause an upsurge in these types of cases.

This morning, the Chairman and Treasurer of the Association's Central Board called a press conference to acknowledge that the letter in the public domain is legit and that this is the membership's message to the Minister responsible for police is authentic. Here are the chairman's very careful comments on the topic:

Sgt. Jermaine Hyde - Central Board Chair, Police Association
"The letter that is circulating, that specific letter is not authentic, as you notice, it has no signature on that letter. But, the letter was drafted by us. A letter was drafted from us to the Minister of Home Affairs, and how did this letter come about? In early March of this year, we had a consultation with our members."

"Throughout the country of Belize. And basically, what we did in that letter is to outline what they were saying in respect to the 10% salary cut for the 3 years, and the increment freeze. So, the letter is basically a reflection of what - we are just letting their voices be heard of what they will be facing if we are given a 10% salary cut."

"There are a lot of things that are mentioned in that letter from the members that do speak a lot about what they will be facing with a 10% cut. But, one of the things that I believe that stands out when it comes to what the members were saying, during the consultation, is the fact that they will - especially for the police officers. The majority of our police officers do travel from point A to point B on a daily basis. And when they travel, that entails - they have to buy their meals for the day and everything. So, a lot of them were very open in saying that they believe that with a 10% cut, the money that they are using for traveling is the money that will be touched. So - and if you read the letter carefully - because I know that you guys went through that letter and dissected it and everything, we also invited the minister to have input in trying to ease some of those financial frustrations that police may be facing. I will go on the record in saying that the Minister and the Commissioner have begun a tour in trying to listen to some of these concerns."

"The association is not here - we're not here to make mischief. We're just basically the voice of our membership. As I said, we have policies and procedures, and the police cannot go out there and openly speak on certain aspects of what is happening internally. So then, we as the Association Central Board, myself, Mr. Mendoza and the 5 others, it is our duty to bring those concerns to the Commissioner, and in some cases - like this letter - to the Minister of Home Affairs."

The Association is made up of approximately 2,000 police officers who are below the rank of Sergeant.

Channel 7

Re: Unions protests, main roads and highways blocked [Re: Marty] #549655
04/21/21 11:34 AM
04/21/21 11:34 AM
Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 79,940
oregon, spr
Marty Offline OP

Marty  Offline OP

Unions Fuel Boycott of Fuel Stations

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