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BNTU’s SHOW OF STRENGTH AWAKENS GOB

BNTU’s SHOW OF STRENGTH AWAKENS GOB
November 08
08:08 2018
THE REPORTER: News Staff, -

The Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), this week sent a loud message to the government of Belize and in particular, the Ministry of Education with a demonstration in Belmopan on Wednesday to display their lingering discontent with the ministry’s revised hardship allowance school list and unsettled negotiations over Proposal 22, which the union maintains will negatively impact the pensions of teachers at church-run schools, as well as the withholding of commuting allowances.

Over 1,000 teachers from all over the country descended on Belmopan on Wednesday morning in support of their union and their President, Elena Smith. Teachers lined the streets and marched around the ring-road before filing in to the Civic Center for a rally with impassioned speeches by Smith and union supporters such as Christian Workers Union President, Mose Hyde and other union branch leaders.

The teachers also marched over to the steps of the National Assembly and chanted songs with messages of solidarity. Many teachers carried signs expressing their frustrations with the ministry. Members of the Opposition, including People’s United Party (PUP) leader John Briceño, joined the teachers at the Civic Center, expressing his solidarity with their cause. Inside the Civic Center, union members acknowledged the support from the Opposition but cautioned that if their party were to take office, the teachers would still fight the same cause if they do not listen to the concerns of the teachers.

Smith told the Reporter that Prime Minister Dean Barrow had written to the union, expressing his opinion that the matter did not have to escalate to the point of a demonstration and requesting a meeting between the union and Ministry of Education after discussing it in Cabinet the day prior. That meeting is scheduled to take place on Monday. Smith said if there is no resolution reached by the end of the meeting, the Prime Minister will need to personally step in. Smith, however, said the union is hopeful that the meeting will be productive given the PM’s noted concern.

The teachers took issue with the re-categorization of hardship allowance as it asserts that several schools, who desperately need the assistance, have been taken off the list. The BNTU grow weary after several attempts to have the matter addressed went ignored by ministry officials, according to the union. Smith said under the re-categorization several rural schools have been placed on other lists based on certain criteria but the union believes it should be consulted as the official bargaining agency for teachers.

The other major point of contention, Proposal 22, would see teachers and support staff from Catholic Schools receive only 70 percent the value of their pensions after retirement. “We want to ensure that those persons are given 100 percent of their pensions just as any teacher at any other institution of education,” Smith told the Reporter. The teachers have also taken issue with outstanding commuting allowances being withheld from teachers. The union is also upset that annual increments have consistently been paid late. Smith said some teachers have even retired being owed years of outstanding increments and are not receiving a fair package.

Smith added that their membership has also expressed willingness to take the matter all the way if attempts at resolution are unsuccessful.

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