BNTU demonstrates in Belmopan Print E-mail
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Friday, 09 November 2018 00:00

Members of the Belize National Teachers Union BNTU hit the pavement in Belmopan on Wednesday. Educators from across the Country arrived in some 20 buses early in the morning in Belmopan from the ten BNTU branches. After a few minutes of respite, teachers then left from the nearby Belmopan Comprehensive High School and took the route along Ring Road to end at the Belmopan Convention Center. As they went along teachers sung, “We will not be moved, just like a tree that’s planted by the water…solidarity forever, for the Union Makes us strong.”

They are motivated by a plethora of demands that the BNTU has been making over the last few days such as with the decade long unfinished business of Proposal 22 and adjustments for the hardship allowance for teachers working in uncomfortable environments, in addition to addressing late increments.

President of the BNTU, Senator Elena Smith summarized the terms of priorities.  “We are asking them to sit, let me clarify we are looking at the Ministry of Education first and we want for them to sit with us so that we can finalize Proposal 22, then we want the Ministry to sit with us as we requested; the bargaining agent for our members…so that we can discuss the hardship schools or the list of schools in that list and we can have a good input in re-categorizing these schools.”

Elena Smith also informed that a letter was received from the Prime Minister the Hon. Dean Barrow yesterday and in it the Prime Minister is asking the Minister of Education the Hon. Patrick Faber to meet with them “…to resolve the matters because he felt that these are matters that could easily be resolved via discussion…and if it is that the Minister [of Education] is unable to resolve the matter with us, he will take over.”

About a week ago, on Proposal 22, past president of the BNTU Luke Palacio had argued, “ …as it relates to proposal 22…one, we are talking natural justice. If the teachers at the government secondary schools are getting a 100% then we believe that our teachers and support staff and the grant aided schools should get the same… Our proposal 22 speaks to payment of 100%, service benefits to teachers and support staff. By support staff we are talking about bursars, our janitors, our secretaries, finance officers, security personnel that work at these schools just like those at the government secondary schools.”

Referring to Proposal 22, Minister of Education Patrick Faber has said: “It is general perception in the public that proposal twenty-two as it has to do with the benefits for pension and gratuity for those denominational and community schools is not on the table anymore as the Prime Minister said. So when it was that President Elena was talking about a meeting with the Minister of Education to continue to talk about proposal twenty-two; it is not proposal twenty-two in its entirety so the matter of pension and gratuity or that thirty percent is not yet alive to make that absolutely clear. The portion of proposal 22 that is alive has to do with four community schools that are to determine whether they want to be under full government proprietorship or they wish to continue as community schools. Those are the only issues that are still alive under the current collective bargaining agreement negotiations. It is that single issue; that single portion of proposal twenty-two that keeps the collective bargaining negotiations alive; that are  in excess now of ten years going on.”

Deborah Domingo, Chief Executive Officer within the Ministry of Education had also commented on the issue. “As far as I know, the joint staff relation council met in September and there were several agreements in terms of the way forward which included continued dialogue between the Ministry of Education and the B.N.T.U. on several matters under proposal twenty-two. There was a commitment expressed by the minister to engage B.N.T.U. to come to a resolution with some of the things that may have been outstanding. …There was also a commitment shared by the minister in that meeting to work along with all the stakeholders to get the managing authorities to pay the thirty percent of pensionable benefits that for many grant-aided institutions are not being paid. So there was commitment on the part of the government side to push managements to meet the other thirty percent given that if you are retiring from a grant-aided institution, particularly at the secondary level, most people walk away with only seventy percent of their gratuity benefits and their pension.”

President of the BNTU Elena Smith has been insisting that Ministry of Education meet with the Council of Management.

“We are open…the ball is in their court,” she has said.

Minister of Education, Hon. Patrick Faber says that a meeting is scheduled for Tuesday of next week to continue negotiations.


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