Teachers Rally

Posted By: Marty

Teachers Rally - 03/08/14 10:06 AM

Tells PM To Put Salary Adjustment In Writing

But the teachers started their debate today - and they say it's about issues bigger than the budget or any raise of pay. They called today's event a rally on social issues, but they've also thrown in that for all the promises of a 5% salary increase, it has not been formally put to them.

But, more than just social issues were driving today's event, and that's because Education Minister Patrick Faber warned on Wednesday that the teachers who attend the rally will get their pay docked for the day of lost classes. That - and the fact that the 5% raise is basically "in-pocket" had to have an effect on the crowd - which was not impressive for a BNTU National Rally; such an event usually draws thousands, today they had hundreds. But those that did appear were spirited and defiant. Daniel Ortiz was in Belmopan, and here's his report:

Daniel Ortiz reporting
Teachers from all branches across the country assembled on the Belmopan Ring Road, ready to show their unions might at a little after 9 a.m.

With their placards and crafty tunes to taunt the Prime Minister and their Minister of Education, they organized in two rows and then took over the streets all the way to Independence Hill.

Adelida Guerra - First Vice-President, BNTU
"We are expecting numbers from all our 10 branches. Right now I am not able to tell you because we just came and we have not checked with the other presidents but maybe later on we will be able to give you that."

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"We are not looking at numbers, but what we do know is that we have the 10 branches on the BNTU out here and as you can see they are out here in large numbers despite the intimidation by the minister of education."

And while that's the teachers' interpretation of the Education Minister's comments, numbers are important, and we counted 706 green shirts and persons marching.

There was another 40 or so stragglers who waited at the end point instead of joining the big group. That's 746 professionals who pride themselves on not being "paycheck teachers", where they are willing to risk a pay cut for the cause.

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"Our teachers are fully well aware that when they take industrial action their salary may be withheld, it doesn't say shall, it says may be withheld and that is what we are about. Again we've said it, Saturday and Sunday is a non-school day and we are hoping that those managements and the ministry of education in particular will not try to penalize our teachers by taking out of their salaries on Saturday and Sunday as they have been purported to be attempting to do."

But their pay remains on their minds, particularly the salary increase. Government has committed in principle to at 5% increase. They say that is lip service until it makes it into black and white.

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"That is one of our requests that it be given to us in writing because in fact if you listen to the radio this morning one of the media were saying that the minister of national security is now saying that the Prime Minister have said it's going to be five and a half percent. Why every time there is a change? Let us get this thing in writing. We again, our condition here has to be with the fact that we agreed that the salary adjustment would come effective in July. We are not fighting that, but our concern has to do that how can they already be making that pronouncement as if although it is final and the financial year has not yet ended. The financial year ends at the end of March and if additional revenue is had within this month, what will become of that? Is that not a part of the formula that we are proposing and we have basically said okay, we will try out that formula?"

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir, this raise is costing the country 22 million dollars. Why is it the teachers still feel that they should be given more when 22 million is being diverted to this particular raise?"

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"I think you did not hear what I said. I said we have a formula that we are working that they proposed. If the formula is showing that the amount that is going to be given to the raise is 22 million - that is 50% of what was raised. So it is not the teachers demanding more. We are saying that there is a formula that we are working and we are going to adhere to that to see how it works out. I don't want you or the public to go with the idea that we are asking for more than what they are proposing at this stage. That is what the figures are showing that the formula will allow us to get."

And as normal, the Teachers demonstration had its fair share of harsh criticism.

Daniel Ortiz
"I saw on the social media the minister of national security making a post saying that the leadership of the BNTU is hijacked by PUP politics. How do you respond to those criticisms?"

Adelida Guerra - First Vice-President, BNTU
"Well I will tell you sir that I cannot respond to my leader of our union. I think he can respond for himself."

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"We don't want to waste our time answering that, but obviously this has nothing to do with politics, but that is what politicians do, they practice politics - everything for them is politics. As far as we are concern this is a movement that is legally established in this country since 1970 and we continue to do what we need to do for our people of Belize."

But it must be noted that the crowd became more boisterous when members of the Opposition Party exited the House for a brief intermission, lending to that perception of political grandstanding. In somewhat similar fashion they loudly boo'd Patrick Faber when he exited the House.

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"We are going to stand up because we are going to change this whole culture of this 5 seconds democracy that exists in Belize every 5 years. We are going to deal with the national issues that need to be dealt with for the sake of our children and our grandchildren and for the sake of this beloved country we called Belize. We do understand that some of our individuals are intimidated. We do know that some have some other agenda. We want them to understand that we respect their views, but don't let them come and try to impose that on us."

Daniel Ortiz
"We are only 6 weeks from the PSE and the criticism is that you are giving up another teaching day when you should be in class. How do you respond to those who say that the students are taking a hit because of the agenda that you guys are putting forward?"

Luke Palacio - National President, BNTU
"Why didn't you ask the minister that question yesterday when he declared Thursday a non-school day?"

The teachers dispersed at 1:45 p.m., when the Budget presentation finished and the representatives had left.

Channel 7

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