With four working days before they go on national strike, the Belize National Teacher’s Union has launched a feverish solidarity campaign, reaching out to as many social partner groups for their support.
As we reported last night, the BNTU held a meeting with the three utility unions: the Belize Communications Workers Union, Belize Energy Workers Union and the Belize Water Services Workers Union, and today we confirmed that the meeting also included other groups from around the country including: a Church representative, the hashtag I-want-my-country-back movement, Citizens Organized for Liberty thru Action (COLA), the Belize Christian Workers Union and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association from here in the north.
The objective of all these meetings is to get the groups on board with the BNTU, and to even convince them to participate in the national strike as they deem it fit.
As we mentioned, among the groups who met with the Teacher’s Union on Monday evening is the BSCFA. The cane farmers association has a long history of conflicts with Governments over their supervision and regulation of the sugar industry, so they are no stranger to the BNTU’s current direction. Today we asked BSCFA’s Alfredo Ortega why they found it necessary to join the Teachers.
Alfredo Ortega – BSCFA
“In regards to what is ongoing in regards to what the teachers are doing the BSCFA supporting the movement of the teachers. There are many national issues that the teachers had bring up to the table and many of those issues are affecting not only the teachers but even us ourselves and we have seen through the course of time what happened to us for the past years in regards to the breaking up of the Association and now we are living what is the price of cane that we are getting now versus what we got last year so all of those things are really affecting our farmers and our families and the country at large.”
“Sir, there will be the criticism that there are apples and oranges, you are mixing up cane farmers in teachers business that the cane farmers association has nothing to do, you might even be accused of just wanting to cause political mischief, how would you respond of both issues?”
Alfredo Ortega – BSCFA
“Well, if you can see in the history of the sugar industry there is a lot of teachers that are cane farmers, there is a lot of those teachers that went and get an education because of the cane farming industry so many of them has been link into this from they were born into this situation so there is no way on earth that this is a way where we were just pressing ourselves into something that is not so, we are seeing, we are living and it is not only the teachers and all of us are living and the cane farmers are living the worst because at least the teachers has a monthly pay but the cane farmers don’t and this year you can see the example of what has happened about the breakup of the association, we have moved from a price of $75.25 for last year to an estimate right now for the second payment that we got of $48.08 so you see a total difference of almost $30.00 of our price versus last year so the biggest pressure is on the cane farmers, many farmers were unable to get any financial assistance from the banking institutions because they had already made commitments of last year in which they were unable to fulfill this year because of the price of cane, so farmers are taking a lick and we are suffering very hard so it is very important that we join hands together and to make a better place for us.”
One specific issue which the BSCFA has been able to advise the BNTU and its membership on is the importance of staying united. The Association knows how essential unity is, because in 2015 they lost their strength in numbers when new associations were formed and their members jumped ship. This split was encouraged by the Government and their political agents in order to weaken the BSCFA. Since then the cane farmers have not been able to put of a strong front. Ortega says he knows too well the tactics which the Prime Minister employs in negotiations, and divide and conquer is how it begins.
Alfredo Ortega, BSCFA
“If you can clearly listen and understand to his speeches the last one he did on Sunday he spoke about that the PSU and the other Unions have already agreed to the deferral of the 3% but he didn’t mention anything about if they have already sent or if they are looking forward into the national issues that is happening so what he has thrown out is that the BNTU or the teachers are by themselves and on the manner as he develops his message you can clearly see that he wanted to put the parents against the teachers; he came out and said look the parents and the teachers are not looking forward into the children so in one way he is trying to cover up in using the parents and the children and on the other hand trying to break the teachers from their Unions so clearly you can see that he is trying to do the same thing he did with the BSCFA in breaking up apart and now the beneficiary of the this is the government and ASR/BSI.”
Ortega also called on the other cane farmers associations here in the north to stand in solidarity with the teachers.
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