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Back in February, the Belize National Teacher’s Union claimed a small victory following mediation sessions with the Ministry of Education over the Ministry’s proposed salary cuts for teachers who participated in the Union’s strike action in October 2016.


We thought that that was it for quarrels and battles between the Union and the Ministry, but it seems the Ministry is adamant about not staying with the last lick. This week the Minister of Education Patrick Faber confirmed that the Ministry, while unable to withhold salaries for those who went on strike, will be compensating those teachers who did not go on strike. Faber said the Ministry will be spending $1 million to achieve this compensation, and according to him, the move even has the blessing of the Prime Minister.


Screen_Shot_2017-04-04_at_7.58.59_PMHonourable Patrick Faber - Minister of Education


“As I’ve always said to those who advocated for us to simply pay the teachers that were on strike it is not as easy as doing that there were those teachers who diligently went to work throughout the elven days of the strike and then there were those who of course went in January when the ministry along with the managing authorities of schools agreed on those days; the six days if you remember, that were makeup days the 3rd, 4th, and 5th of January they were to be the first four of the six days and of course you know the history of that, so while it is we cannot pay compensation fully for those teachers who attended school in those days we thought that it would be important for us to give some kind of honorarium to those teachers and so in consultation with the Prime Minister we have agreed to set aside 1 million dollars that will be divided among those teachers, a small honorarium we are in the process now bringing together the figures that will show us those teachers, the management are submitting those and once we know those numbers then we will divide it among the Million dollars among those teachers and we will try to make a payment to them and we are hoping that this can be done before the Easter break comes fully so hopefully this week we can get those figures, I think they are already in, we are just now putting them through the system and we will be able to tell you what exactly what that figure and it is going to be monies that they get in their account so to speak because it will go well for Easter for many who are looking forward to some kind of compensation for those days.”

 

The move has upset the National Teachers Union. So much so that President Luke Palacio spoke to the media today calling the act Union busting since it seeks to discourage teachers from following their Union.


President Luke Palacio - Belize National Teacher’s Union


“The ministry now is making an about face in determining that they are going to compensate those teachers who did not go on strike, we had written to the ministry recently I think couple weeks ago indicating to them that we had gathered this information that we are asking them to confirm and we wrote specifically to Dr. Carol Babb, Chief Education Officer, she has not responded but it is now official that they are saying that they are going to pay these teachers and they try to use terms such as is not compensation but it is an honorarium, we believe, our position is was and continuing to be that you are paying teachers who did not go on strike because you want to weakened the BNTU and all teachers were paid, those teachers who did not go on strike for whatever reason were also paid and they were not working at school because most of those schools were closed and if they were opened very, very few children or students were at school so what are we saying now we are going to pay people for doing nothing simply because you want the BNTU to look bad, the minister of education consistently says that he is not about punishing the BNTU but that is exactly what he is doing trying to punish the BNTU for standing up for this country.”


Palacio also called on the teachers who are in the Minister’s good teachers list to reject the offer. He suggested that the funds be used to improve school conditions and the provision of needed equipment to teachers and students.

 

President Luke Palacio - Belize National Teacher’s Union


“We are saying based on principle if you believe in the movement you did not strike for whatever reason you were paid and the dignified thing to do is look maybe I did not strike for a number of reasons because we got various reason why individuals did not go on strike we are saying to them reject that money because when the same minister, when these same people who head the ministry of education when some of these same management decide that they are going to deal with our teachers they will come to this Union and that is fundamental for us, for our people to start to learn and believe in themselves and the power that they have, the dignity that they have because what are we saying to our children if we cold heartedly welcome this w are saying to them even if somebody is taking advantage of you as long as he or she clashes a few dollars in your pay whatever dignity you may have suffered it is ok now because you have been paid for it and nobody can pay you for your dignity.”


Faber could not say how many teachers are on the compensation list but he did mention during the interview yesterday that data is being worked on to ensure teachers are paid by the Easter break.

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