Since the start of the New Year 2014 – which has been dubbed by union leaders as the “Year of the Worker” – the workers unions have intensified their efforts to get the Government to heed their calls not only for a long awaited salary adjustment, but also for accountability and transparency with regards to pressing social and national issues such as corruption, which remain unaddressed in the eyes of many Belizeans.
One of those unions who have been at the forefront of the agitation, and one with the most widespread membership base is the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), whose members are clamoring for a salary adjustment, which they say has not been effected since 2005.
The BNTU has organized a series of peaceful, weekly rallies to be held nationwide in order to mobilize not only teachers, but public officers from across the country to stand together and raise awareness about those issues on the front burner – including their salary adjustment.
The stance has been met with a level of disdain by the Ministry of Education, which insists that there is no need for any industrial action on the part of the teachers.
The teachers and their union, on the other hand, believe that the rallies are necessary to amplify their demands from the Government.
Motivated and led by their National President, Luke Palacio, a contingent of teachers from the Belize District came out in full force to show their support of the union’s bid for a pay raise today in the nation’s population center – Belize City.
Marching and chanting their newfound slogan “Teachers gat yuh back”, about 300 teachers paraded from the Constitution Park on Cemetery Road to the Battlefield Park in downtown Belize City where the rally took place.
Palacio, in the main address, applauded the teachers for coming out despite reports of intimidation. He said, “I believe that the teachers got the back of the Belizean people because today we came out despite the attacks and intimidation by the Minister of Education, by some of our principals, and by some of our managers.”
He also reminded the gathering of the main reason why they were out there. Palacio said, “Brothers and sisters, we are talking bread-and-butter issues. The only people that have gotten a raise in this country since 2005 are the Ministers of Government, because remember, they were in Opposition, so their salaries were smaller. We have been asking for a salary adjustment since 2005. Therefore, we stand up in solidarity and we want to send a message loud and clear to the Minister of Education to try and stop his scare tactics, because he cannot scare the teachers, because we teachers build this nation.”
In his address, retired executive of the BNTU, George Frazer, urged all public officers to join in the call to action. He also encouraged all teachers not to be afraid and to “stop peeping through windows” and come out to support their union. Frazer said, “It’s not only salary adjustment; it is a matter of our national dignity and pride … we will stick to our position. The main issues are from way back and even in the BNTU constitution, we need to fight for social justice.”
The next rally is scheduled for Friday, January 24, in San Ignacio. That rally will coincide with a planned business shutdown in that municipality.