Those were the chants of the PSU and the BNTU as they stood a wall of
green and yellow on the National Assembly stairs. Just inside, the House
of Representatives met for the Budget Debate.
The Unionists chose this day to come out so that the government could hear
their message loud and clear: corruption within the government needs to
And president of the BNTU, Elena Smith, said that good governance was
always their goal.
Elena Smith - President, BNTU
"From the beginning we made it very clear that we were not letting go of
these good governance issues because we felt that these issues are really
and truly what have us where we are today. So our teachers were out there
to send that message that we are saying to those in authority, our leaders,
that you must deal with those good governance issues so that things could
be better for all of us, not just us teachers, but for all of us as a
country, as a people."
And according to the Belmopan Branch President, that's exactly why they
decided to support their brothers and sisters in yellow.
Corlan Galvez - President, BNTU Belmopan Branch
"Today we just came out here to support the PSU, they're our sister union
so we came out to support them. This morning earlier we had our activity
where we were on the highway picketing and going against corruption. And so
that was what we were doing this morning and after we finished then we came
out here to support PSU and also for our voices to be heard also. As usual
when we are around each other, we are all hype and excited and it doesn't
make sense if you're all hype and excited and the government is not
listening so we came out here to make sure they could hear our voices so
they can hear what we want, what we are talking about, it's not just about
teachers it's also about country and that is what as teachers we are
standing up for."
And on the topic of ongoing corruption, the first vice president of the PSU
also had some words of advice for the parliamentarians meeting right
Dean Flowers - First Vice President, PSU
"I am calling on the government to stop the lies and stop attacking the
union as if I were the opposition. I also want to call on the opposition as
you are the majesty's paid opposition, do not be another lame duck
opposition that will paid to be the watchdog against the government and
simply wait until it's your turn to come and fleece. Well, I can say to the
now opposition, that ain't gonna happen, because if and when you guys come
back to office, we will have good governance, we will have stronger
institutions and we will have laws to hold you accountable. This has to
stop, this is not about me, this is about Belize."
And though their numbers were low, PSU President, Gerald Henry, said that
they held back their forces for the safety of their members.
Gerald Henry - President, PSU
"We could have brought out more persons but we understood the COVID 19
regulations and restrictions so we decided not to bring out everyone and to
limit the amount of persons who would be coming from the districts. In
addition to that we decided to only bring certain branches out, it wasn't
all the branches from across the country, so today we have with us Corozal,
Orange Walk, Belize City, and Cayo and tomorrow we will be having the
southern districts coming in which would be Toledo, Stann Creek, Belmopan
would also come here, and I think Cayo will come again. This thing is a
repeat of administration and we are the ones who always get impacted each
time the government finds itself or puts itself into financial difficulty,
it runs to us, so I think public officers are very aware of that and it's
time to say enough is enough."
But the unions were not alone, since the Nurses Association also joined the
fight. According to the President, Darrell Spencer, they are tired of the
red and blue bukut.
Darrell Spencer - President, Nurses Association
"All of us are out here because Belizeans are the people, we the people,
need to demand a change in our government, not to change the government, we
tired of change government, you change monkey you get black dog, we want
the government to change, we don't want to change the government. Bukut
here represent what Belizeans taking for the last forty years, two decades
nearly of UDP, two decades nearly of PUP and all we get is bukut, we need
to stop taking bukut. Sign the laws, get the laws in place, get the
whistle-blower act in place, no amount of salary cut will help this country
with a wasteful government."
And they the have the support of the NTUCB, as president Luke Martinez said
that the unions are simply defending what's theirs.
Luke Martinez - President, NTUCB
"We are not here to destroy anything, we are nationals, we are
humanitarians, and this is a nationalistic movement and so, nation
building, this is what nation building is about, we must fight corruption.
We are here to defend our property, we are defending our territory, that's
the 10%, we are defending our wages and we will defend it to the end."
The unions will be back, they say in full force tomorrow as the budget
Police officers were on the ground ensuring the order was maintained.
Smith told us that during tomorrow's protest, she does not expect
things to escalate violently at least, not on the BNTU's side.
Protesters Punta on the Steps of the National Assembly
The unions were back on the steps of the National Assembly today, but unlike the ripples we saw yesterday, today a tsunami of green and yellow washed over Independence Plaza. They brought out their drums and their signs singing, "We will not be moved."
And while they made themselves heard to the representatives inside, the budget debate continued and are still ongoing up to this moment.
And though the debate will be winding down later tonight, the unions are just getting started for a long war to protect their wages. Courtney Menzies was on the ground again today and has this story.
Day two of the union protests had more combustion and more of a crowd, as yellow and green coalesced to make formidable frontline.
Their drumming and singing pierced the still Belmopan morning air, bringing that rumble of resistance to the usually staid Independence Plaza, with their signs were hoisted defiantly above their heads.
But unlike those anarchic days in 2005 when the protests turned alarmingly violent, this one remained peaceful and, for the most part, cheerful.
Even BNTU's president, Elena Smith, danced on the National Assembly steps.
But despite the festive air, the unions remained unyielding in their anti-corruption message - And Smith said this is only the beginning.
Elena Smith, President, BNTU "Our teachers have been waited for this day for a while. They were excited to be here and they're finally here and they're just showing that excitement in the midst of the message we are sending across."
Courtney Menzies: "And that message is? Remind us again."
Elena Smith, President, BNTU "Well, as we said before, we continue to fight for good governance, no to corruption, any of those things that could put our country in a worse off position, our teachers are standing up against that."
"We believe that our message is always heard, you know, it's whether those persons who are hearing with be honest to say they've heard the message. But we know the message is being heard."
"This will go for as long as the government decide that they will hold their hard and fast position."
And yellow shirts in the crowd signified that the PSU is also standing strong in the face of a government determined to cut their pay.
Courtney Menzies: "Day 2 of the protests, what's it like?"
Dean Flowers, First Vice President, PSU "Well as you can see Courtney, the atmosphere is a beautiful one, it's a peaceful atmosphere, it's an atmosphere that promotes good governance and we're happy to be out here, we're very proud of this moment, this is history defining moment, this is the beginning of a resistance that will be maintained until this government does what it has to do, which is to deliver on its good governance promsies to ensure that we do not get a repeat of the Musa administration and that we certainly do not get a repeat of the Barrow administration."
But, like yesterday, they still needed to be mindful of COVID restrictions.
Gerald Henry, President, PSU "I can't even express the amount of energy that we're feeling, I have not had breakfast as yet but I feel as though I ate a three course meal."
Courtney Menzies: "You guys have much more numbers out here today than you had yesterday."
Gerald Henry, President, PSU "Certainly, what happened we were trying to be socially responsible and not have as many persons out here but today what happened is that the teachers joined us as well and that added to our numbers and we have some of our bigger branches that came out today because what we did was to split the branch from yesterday and today, so we had four branches yesterday but those were our smaller branches but today we have our bigger branches that came out."
Corlan Galvez, President, BNTU Belmopan Branch "It's basically just one bus from each branch, so we still do not have our majority out here, because of the COVID rules so it's still only one bus from each branch."
"It's time that our government stop abuse the poor people, you have so many people out there who owe a lot of taxes, land tax and all kind of taxes, but every time a government comes in, the first people they target are the people who struggle, and that is not right because the people who struggle does not benefit from all of their wastage."
And while the unions are fighting for good governance, the NTUCB president is a little more ambitious.
Luke Martinez, President, NTUCB "What we saw here yesterday and what we are seeing here today is nation building, this is the nation building that some of our past leaders dream of. It's nation building that is happening. The unions are saying that enough is enough and we need to ensure that the good governance can materialize, and we are not going to be moved form that position."
"We could repeat history and this could be the birth of a second third party. When the People's United Party, they were formed upon a labor movement, and so we are seeing that developing here."
The BNTU will strike on Monday with a walkout from schools - both literally for those that have returned to classes and figuratively for those teaching online.
The PSU has yet to reveal what their strike action will look like.
The University of Belize's Faculty and Staff Union was also out there in support of the other unions.
A release from the Belize Medical and Dental Association also notes that 50% of their members that took part in a survey are from the public sector and, according to the results of that survey, 58% of that set are against the salary cuts and 55% reject the increment freeze.
Additionally, the release says the health sector is also underpaid, undermined, and has limited resources, so they will not agree with any budget that affects the livelihoods of health workers - especially those on the frontlines of the pandemic.