Belize teachers to stage mass protest today

Sunday, September 18, 2016

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BELMOPAN, Belize (CMC) — The Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) has announced plans for a mass demonstration today, even as the government assured parents that all schools will be opened.

The Ministry of Education, in a statement, informed parents, teachers and students that in compliance with the education rules, managing authorities will take necessary measures to make certain that schools and institutions are kept open for classes today

The BNTU said it has asked its membership to wear signature green T-shirts as part of the ‘Stand Up For Belize’ solidarity campaign on matters of urgent national importance.

BTNU President Luke Palacio said his union would not be joining other trade unions, including the Public Service Union and Association of Public Service Senior Managers, for talks with Prime Minister Dean Barrow on Friday.

He said while the demonstration will go ahead regardless of the Government’s response to its seven demands issued last week, the union would be seeking a separate meeting with Prime Minister Barrow regarding his list of demands after consultation with the council of management.

"First of all there were no deadlines and no conditions set as it relates to the plan of action the BNTU has. A letter was sent to the PM asking and making certain demands and we gave him up until Friday to respond, and he has done so," Palacio said, noting that the response was received on Wednesday.

"In relation to the demonstration we are having on Monday, it was not contingent on whether the PM responded by Friday or not. Our position is that on the 19th of September we are going to have a national demonstration in Belmopan," he added.

Earlier last week, the Government said plans by the teachers to stage the demonstration were politically motivated.

The BNTU had also indicated that its action is to get the Government to pay out the third tranche of the three per cent adjustment to the salaries of teachers.

Education Minister Patrick Faber said the issues raised by the BNTU in a letter to the prime minister have already been raised in a legitimate forum like the Collective bargaining agreement negotiations "which we all agreed a few weeks ago would come to a close".

But Palacio said the demonstration will also be about the need for good governance in the country.

"My friends, the things we are talking about, the things we are taking these actions upon and hoping that they will bring about good governance of this country, everybody knows, everybody feels it, everybody sees it every single day.

"And so, when individuals in the Government will decide that they want to get the public on their side simply because, as far as they are concerned, they see nothing wrong, the masses of the Belizean people see what is wrong and at the end of the day the Belizean people will vindicate the union for standing up," he said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education said all stakeholders, including bus operators, have been informed that school buses will run their normal schedules today.

Additionally, it said that whenever the BNTU calls a meeting or other activity it is a common practice of some principals to send notes to parents and guardians through their children.

"This is to notify them that there would be no classes because of the planned union meeting or activity. The public is reminded that principals have no such authority unless approval has been given for such meetings or other activities," the ministry added.

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