Cayo teachers press for expanded strike; BNTU management to make decision; getting support from social partners

Posted: Tuesday, September 27, 2016. 6:55p.m. CST.


By BBN Staff:The Belize National Teachers’ Union continued its quarterly regional branch meeting in San Ignacio Branch to gather at the Octavia Waight Centre Convention Hall this afternoon. Interestingly, on the issue of the planned strike action coming at the start of next week, the hundreds of educators present seemed to be trying to prod their own leadership to go further. The Union had only called for its member teachers to absent themselves from school next week Monday. Palacio addressed that demand following the meeting’s conclusion, stating that only a majority could make that decision

For now, the scheduled quarterly regional meetings continue; Benque Viejo Branch is to meet tomorrow. The Council of Management’s meeting later this week, Palacio said, will not affect the regional meetings as the elected representatives from all branches will be present.

On Monday while meeting with the press in Belize City, B.N.T.U. president Luke Palacio confirmed that the Union was planning to meet with other trade unions and social partners. That meeting took place on Monday night in Belize City. It was intended to be a rebuttal of Prime Minister Dean Barrow’s statement to the nation and the previous meetings, explained point by point. As Palacio tells us, the Union got a promise of support from its partners. He also made the point that the Government’s propaganda campaign gives the lie to its claims that it is the Union who is trying to divide the country.

The Belize National Teachers’ Union has argued in its response to Prime Minister Dean Barrow that the veteran politician and senior attorney has tried a strategy of “divide and conquer” with the many groups flanking him on issues of national interest. For this reason, he says, the non-Governmental organizations and social partners must remain united and keep his charms at bay.

In the opening section of his statement to the nation, Prime Minister Dean Barrow was at pains to point out that none of the eight items discussed on the agenda at the September twenty-second meeting at the Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel concerned the deferral of the three percent salary adjustment owed to teachers and public officers. A Joint Union Negotiating Team consisting of the Belize National Teachers’ Union; Public Service Union; and Association of Public Service Senior Managers is in charge of those negotiations, and the representatives of the latter two unions have indicated that they support the deferral to next April; the B.N.T.U., adamantly, does not. However, today, B.N.T.U. president Luke Palacio appeared to concede that the deferral will happen. He is now saying that it should not be conflated with the other relevant national issues that the B.N.T.U. is fighting for.

And finally, the Ministry of Education has confirmed that it will be meeting on Wednesday afternoon with the managers of various groups of schools to discuss plans and contingencies for Monday’s strike action by the Belize National Teachers’ Union. The Union’s members are being asked to stay out of school for that one day. While the Union claims that some managers are backing its action, there is absolutely nothing that stops teachers from going or not going to school. But he reiterated that managers do have the ultimate responsibility for what happens at each school.

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