As day two of the planned strike action being carried out by the Belize National Teachers Union in pursue of better governance in Belize, came to an end, it was announced that the strike continues into day three and day four. This announcement came following a meeting held today at the BNTU headquarters in Belize City with the executive members of the union.
Kathleen Flowers - General Secretary Belize National Teacher’s Union
“The word out now is that the strike now continues, so we are gearing up for day three, how many more days there will be, I can just tell you that on Thursday we are doing our country mass demonstration, you guys like to demonstrate right, and as we speak there are people working the machinery to make sure that that demonstration can be done within the legal parameters and frameworks of this country and we have elements of the public relation team preparing to get the word out because we are calling on every breathing living person we know and are friends with; parents, children, tertiary institution, students, grandma, grandpa, and their best cousin, everybody come out with us on Thursday because we are going to be doing a continue demonstration so that kind of gives you a little insight.”
Otilio Munoz – President BNTU Orange Walk Branch
“We had the council of management meeting today and our main objective there was to actually look at what we are going to be doing next as to our action plan, we know that we are on strike but what will it be like tomorrow, I want to say that there was a decision that tomorrow we will be on strike day three and am asking those teachers that are still not onboard with us to be with us that is the call am doing right now I want them to be with us and I think that the lesson by the sixth formers from Monday was the correct lesson that we could ever get, so it is time for you to make a change and I want to say that this second day, today that I can see a total different environment, I see the number of teachers increasing; yesterday I had like two hundred and today is like four hundred and fifty and you could notice that there were some school that were opened yesterday and that were closed totally today so that is giving us a message there, we are getting stronger, I want to also say that the Chamber of Commerce is with us and you know they are very potential organizations that consists of businesses and I wouldn’t doubt that they will be with us by tomorrow and I am praying that that will happen so I believe that we need to continue this struggle and continue to do our best that we can.”
For day three of the BNTU strike, teachers across the country will be engaged in an educational campaign visiting parents as well as the different businesses.
Here in Orange Walk, although the numbers of teachers taking part in this industrial action continues to grow, President of BNTU Orange Walk, Otilio Munoz, today continued to encourage the teachers to join in on their movement for a better Belize.
Otilio Munoz – President BNTU Orange Walk
“Tomorrow I am saying is day three of our strike; we are convening here at the Crystal Auditorium tomorrow at eight o’clock and we want to start at eight with prayers and worship because we believe that we cannot do anything without God and I am inviting everyone, all our members and teachers to be out here to praise God for half an hour and from there we ae going to move one and go on our campaign, tomorrow we are engaging in a campaign, you see how the politicians go house to house and try to get a vote from the people, that is the way we are going to go tomorrow here in Orange Walk district and all the other district will be happening simultaneously countrywide but we are not going to be out there for a vote, we are going to be begging for a vote like how the politicians do but we are going to be there to educate our parent and let them understand that this is the cause that we are fighting and let them have that confidence to ask us and to question us and we will be there to give explanations, this campaign is for us to get the support from them but it is only parents so the business people, all the places like Social Security, the commercial banks you will be expecting people teachers who will be going to your places and please let us feel that we are welcome in your places and if you have your political affiliation we respect it but when it comes to our issues and our stand that we are fighting and I want to ask that anyone who receive thee teachers tomorrow that you face them with an open mind.”
As to what prompted the decision for an extension of their strike action, Munoz says there were many reasons but the biggest being the blatant disrespect endured by teachers at the hands of Belize’s Foreign Minister, who in a nutshell alluded to the fact that teachers don’t possess the wisdom or competence to deal with all the issues of our country. For context here is the Minister’s statement.
Honorable Wilfred Elrington – Minister of Foreign Affairs
“In any democratic country, strikes are a given. It is understood that people will go into the streets to express their views and opinions on issues of the time. In countries like France for example you have strikes almost every week. In other countries in the Caribbean, you have strikes too. Strikes are normal and natural; it is a way for people to express their views. I am not overly about strikes. People will have legitimate issues; you will have unscrupulous people—people who are fraudulent and who will use the opportunity for political gain. I understand that too, so I am not overly concerned about things like that. As you and I know so well, this country is so politically divided; actually, I get the impression from listening to the union leaders that really they have found the view that neither the U.D.P. nor the P.U.P. are in fact doing what they think should be done and that they are the savers of the country. But that’s not the role of a labor union. A labor union has the interest of looking after its constituents, the teachers. In this case teachers union should be looking after teachers’ interests. And those interest would include making sure that their salaries are paid and that kind of thing. But it is not my understanding that they have the remit really to take on all the issues of the country and I don’t even know whether they have the wisdom or the ability or the competence to deal with those issues. But that happens in small countries, I imagine.”
According to Munoz the teachers expect nothing less than an apology from the Foreign Minister.
Otilio Munoz – President BNTU Orange Walk Branch what prompted extension
“We are familiar with what was said by our minister Elrington and it was not something nice it was a disrespect to our teachers of this entire country even for those ones who are not in strike, because at the end of the day they are teachers so in other words our minister and they are the ones who have a different way of thinking about us the teachers of this country, it is a shame to hear our leaders of this country to not valuing the work of teachers and the impact we create in a society that I don’t what to comment anything else on it but it was very disrespectful and the very least that he can do is give an apology to the teachers of this country because we are and we have a noble profession and that is the teaching profession, and another thing is that the SI that was going to be introduced there was no SI to having teachers getting into the classrooms so there was no SI with the emergency permits that they wanted to come out with and not only those factors but simply seeing the participation of the teachers and the support of the parents huge that we are getting that is what has made us to continue the fight that we can prolong this until tomorrow but with the main objective of educating people.”
Although information following the meeting of the BNTU executive earlier today, was that the BNTU will be holding mass demonstration on Thursday, Munoz explained that the Union is taking their industrial action one day at a time.
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