Posted: Sunday, October 23, 2016. 1:43 p.m. CST.
By Richard Harrison: The teachers of Belize, under the Belize National Teachers Union, ended their 11-day strike action this Tuesday, October 18, 2016.
Their STAND FOR BELIZE demanded actions on the part of the Government of Belize (GOB) to curb corruption and deliver good governance….as well as improved conditions for ALL workers of Belize.
Belize has around 6,000 teachers….and the vast majority supported the strike action….with most parents and students supporting the teachers….yet the GOB remained intransigent and dug its heels in….even as bombshell disclosures of mass corruption in the lands department and other places forced the Prime Minister to “accept” the resignation of his once deputy and Minister of Lands, Hon. Gaspar Vega, allegedly having been at the helm of the ministry when his son and associates were facilitated with $800,000 compensation by GOB for private lands they had acquired illegally through the ministry….and the placement on leave of another of his powerful ministers, Hon. John Saldivar; pending investigation of his alleged direct business partnership with an accused criminal who is now in jail, and implicated in the beheading of Pastor Lucas in the recent past.
The teachers come from all political backgrounds…and include those that supported the ruling party….but they stood together for their just cause….and even though a few accuse them of having political motives in line with the opposition parties, the vast majority of Belize believe they were acting based on love for their country over love for any political party. If their families are included, they may directly account for or influence over 60,000 voters, or around 42% of the number of voters who voted in last November’s general elections.
One of the biggest demonstrations in Belize’s history was planned for Wednesday, October 19….but was averted when the GOB, at the eleventh hour and with its back against the wall, decided to concede to most of the teachers demands….before it would suffer the local and international embarrassment of such a large demonstration…and possible collateral fall out with chaos in the streets of Belize City.
Shortly after the teachers returned to the classrooms on Wednesday, the Ministry of Education issued a press release stating that it would be “withholding” the teacher’s salaries for the period of the strike….even though the teachers had officially committed to make up classes for the time lost. This….after the Minister of Education, and deputy prime minister, had recently cost the GOB two very expensive SUV’s due to questionable circumstances of one being driven into the sea, and the other torched in flames.
In the wake of the strikes, the people of Belize have been calling on the GOB to pay the teachers….acknowledging the teachers STAND FOR BELIZE….which will have benefited every Belizean today and for generations to come….if the GOB were to implement the agreements they made with the teachers to avert the demonstration and end the strike action.
Only a few satellite mercenary trolls that live on social media, and who are known fanatics of the ruling UDP party, have been raising objections to this call from even the most humble Belizeans….who appreciate what the teachers have done. Their arguments are mostly based on that teachers should only get paid for work done in the classrooms….they put no value on what the teachers have achieved for Belize in good governance to reduce corruption and improve labor conditions for all workers….their spin doctors say the teachers knew they were on strike action and thus accepted not to be paid as their sacrifice for engaging in such action (they suggest this is a worldwide standard for unions)…that the unions have a strike fund and should pay the teachers out of it….and that those citizens supporting the strike action should be the ones to make financial contributions to help pay the teachers.
I. BELIZE IS UNIQUE
Belize is a small country of 360,000 people….with very weak institutions….it has to work within this special and unique reality….to exercise and grow its democratic values. This is not like bigger countries where many more unions and organizations of scale exist.
The Government has intentionally invested much taxpayers money in dividing most of the mass unions and associations in Belize….the cane farmers association was divided into two….the church associations were divided in many parts, with the rubber stamp portion representing ALL the churches in the Senate….and the Papal Nuncio of the Catholic Church was flown in suddenly to break up the support of that church for the teachers strike….the National Trade Union Congress of Belize and the Public Service Union leaders are severely compromised and generally considered to be “on the take”….and most of them are senior managers and supervisors/participators of the corruption culture pervasive in the Government service….the NGO and civil society organizations depend almost entirely on shillings from foreign donors, and respond only to the interests of those foreign entities, whether Belizean’s have to eat or not….the private sector organizations made what most consider weak overtures in support of the teachers, but they are less than 200 members strong. All of them and their children’s children will benefit from the teachers STAND FOR BELIZE…but they chose to not join the BNTU’s legal industrial action…instead to remain in good standing with the corrupt guardians of the status quo. Belizean taxpayers are not Anonymous…but they also will not forget.
The BNTU is the ONLY organization in Belize that have the willingness and ability to make these demands of government…and to force the government to take serious action to curb corruption and deliver better governance.
The vast majority of the people of Belize know this….and REASON that the teachers were WORKING for Belize ALL the days of their strike….and demand that they should be paid in full….especially since they have made official commitment to make up for lost time in the classrooms by giving extra classes to the students.
II. THE MONEY IS ALREADY BUDGETED FOR
The taxpayers of Belize have already budgeted for the teachers to be paid….it is not like they have to scramble around to find the money. So what will the money be used for if teachers are not paid? No taxpayer in Belize believes that the GOB will not spend that budgeted money if the teachers are not paid….and they prefer that 6,000 teachers and their families spend that money in the wider economy….than for the government, already proven in many instances to be living large off corruption of the public purse, to spend it.
Money spent by all these teachers will circulate many times in the economy and benefit many more people, including GOB in taxes….and is a much better way to channel already budgeted taxpayers money than to purchase very expensive SUV’s, expensive travels abroad, and other luxuries for ministers and senior “public servants” and their concubines and mermaids to live their lives of the rich and famous on the backs of struggling taxpayers of this poor, under-developed country.
Whether the GOB chooses to pay before or after extra classes are delivered is immaterial….but knowing that the teachers have family and loans obligations, delaying payment is seen by the people of Belize as just another vindictive action on the part of GOB, who should be serving the people….not hurting them more than they already hurt. If the GOB chooses to continue with this blatant subversive decision….they will be condemned by the vast majority of Belizeans…and will become a lame-duck government, with four years left into its constitutional 5-year term….the entire Belize boat will continue to sink…and the UDP government will be held responsible for sowing poisoned seeds of discord among its people…which may, in short notice, end up with blood instead of teachers boots on the streets.
III. COMPASSION AND UNDERSTANDING
Only a couple weeks prior, the Prime Minister, who is also Minister of Finance in charge of disbursing the funds to pay the teachers…..in his Independence Day address to the nation on September 21, 2016, said the following words “Let us rather channel National Hero George Price. For we are still, and ever must be, nation builders all. We must fix whatever has gone wrong and continue the forward march. We must bring healing on the basis of compassion and understanding and the infinitely sheltering capacity of Divine love. We must unceasingly strive to shine and polish this Central American Jewel set, to magnificent advantage, in the Caribbean basin. We must build and expand this country of progress and reform and social justice where, as was said on that first Independence Day, every man, woman and child has a stake, a real stake, in the life and work of the new Belize.”
The magnanimity of those words speak for themselves….and the Prime Minister needs the people to love and/or fear him so that he can continue to govern with power to do work….there is much to do….much bigger fishes to fry….no one is calling for him nor his government to resign…but, in the current environment, with so much filth already disclosed and many more boils ready to burst….he can roll that can of worms down the street if he does not put those Independence Day words into flesh….pay the teachers quietly….and lets move on with nation building!
SOLIDARITY WITH OUR TEACHERS!! SOLIDARITY FOR BELIZE!!
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
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