Ministry of Education sets the record straight

Posted: Monday, October 3, 2016. 7:15 p.m. CST.

By BBN Staff:Today, the Ministry of Education sent out a release to ‘set the record straight’.

The two page document explains a timeline of meetings with the BNTU and government regarding their demands to the government.’

It begins by stating “The Ministry categorically states that BNTU Proposal #22 was ventilated over many meetings and all parties agreed to bring the matter to a close in the meeting of the Joint Negotiating Team (JNT) of August 12, 2016.  The record will show the letter of the BNTU to be a clear attempt to muddy the waters and to shift the goal posts notwithstanding what has transpired in the negotiations so far with respect to the BNTU Special Proposal #22. “

It goes on to quote the letter that BNTU sent to government.

“BNTU is not in agreement with that statement and GOB’s position and we are demanding that our Proposal #22 be fully and Urgently addressed; especially related to the Employment Status, Service Benefits, and Rights of “Non-teaching Staffs” of our Secondary and Tertiary Levels institutions.”

“We demand Urgent re-instatement and negotiation/discussion of Proposal #22…”

In their attempt to set the record straight the ministry then outlines some minutes of meetings of the Collective Bargaining Negotiation Process.

“1. A Partial Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed in October 2012 between the Government of Belize (GOB) and the Joint Unions (PSU, APSSM, BNTU) following initial negotiations.

2. BNTU’s Special Proposal #22, specifically that:  “BNTU is requesting that BNTU pays 100% salaries and benefits of all Grant-Aided Secondary and Tertiary Level educational institutions.”, remained among the items on the table after the Partial Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed.

3. The JNT agreed that the proposal be put to Cabinet for its consideration and decision, given the financial implications.

4. A Cabinet Paper was drafted and shared with the JNT (including the BNTU) for its input/any amendments.

5. Following this, the Cabinet Paper was submitted on July 29, 2015 and considered by Cabinet on August 4, 2015.  Cabinet did not approve the proposal given the cost implications particularly as it related to pensions, given that separate actuarial studies had indicated that the pension scheme, as currently configured, is unsustainable and there was a need to transition to a contributory scheme.

6. At a meeting on August 20, 2015, after Cabinet’s response to the Cabinet Paper, it was agreed by the JNT that:

a. A new cabinet paper will be re-submitted to Cabinet making reference to the previous paper to be prepared by CEO Leacock.  This cabinet paper will be shared with JNT before being forwarded to Cabinet.

b. This cabinet paper should be only on the issue of proprietorship of four schools namely:  Toledo Community College, San Pedro High School, Corozal Community College and Ecumenical High School. A proposal was made to bring all four schools on board and Government to recognize these schools as Government Schools.  (Note: Currently these schools, which arose by amalgamation decades ago, do not have declared proprietor and therefore by being brought under Government Proprietorship, the teachers and ancillary staff of these schools to have full service benefits (i.e. 100% pension)).

c. On the receipt of an email from President Luke Palacio on the status of these four schools.  CEO Leacock will complete the cabinet paper and the JNT will convene a meeting.

7. November 4, 2015 General Elections were called and following the elections there was slippage in returning back to the table and neither was any email received, before or after the elections, as per the above.

8. August 12, 2016 the JNT (including the BNTU) agreed to close Proposal #22 bringing the negotiations to a close.  However, it was agreed to take forward the discussions with the four (4) Community High Schools since both the Ministry and the BNTU, supported by the other Unions of the JNT, were on board and it was now a matter for the schools (their board, their staff and wider community) to decide whether they wish to come under Government proprietorship and have their staff benefit from 100% pensions.

9. A meeting was to be called with the representatives of the four (4) Community High Schools at which the BNTU, the Ministry of Education, and the other Union representatives would be present to discuss the matter of the schools coming under Government proprietorship.  BNTU was to take the lead and a deadline was set for October 15, 2016. “

It ends by stressing that the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture, believes that the record, backed up by minutes of meetings, speaks for itself.

© 2016, This article is the copyrighted property of Breaking Belize News. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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