By Aaron Humes: Senator for Trade Unions and Civil Society Elena Smith has begun her highly-anticipated presentation on the Budget Debate after her Belize National Teacher’s Union (BNTU) completed their picket of the National Assembly.
She reiterated that the proposed salary cut comes with tough choices for teachers in particular: they may not be able to continue the study from level to level; they may not be able to provide for their families while the Ministers keep their allowances, and there is no comparison between the level of what the latter are even willing to give up, and what the former are forced to.
“And we are being told, Madam President, that we must put country before self-interest; are we aware of the many times we as teachers have put country before self? We are doing so as we speak…and the reason we are doing so as unions are that we are aware that to get our country to where it needs to be, we must be willing to stand, we must be willing to fight,” she said.
After hearing so much talk of sacrifice and warnings of devaluation and retrenchment, Smith said, why has there been no talk of the heavy number of Cabinet Ministers, backbenchers, and CEOs to be maintained? Meanwhile, teachers are forced to give up helping their “children,” their students, through the school year with things from textbooks to pencils, crayons, and glue, which hurts them as well.
To those expressing words of support, she said, “Words must come with actions and telling me that you support me and telling me that you acknowledge and recognize our contributions to this nation, and then looking at me and telling me you are cutting my salary by ten percent…who suffers? My immediate family suffers but my children, my students will suffer; and their parents will suffer…”
Smith’s presentation and the Debate continues at this hour.