BELIZE CITY, Mon. Oct. 3, 2016–The Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), which launched a successful industrial action against the Government of Belize today, after negotiations on its eight-point demand failed, came in for some critical remarks from Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Wilfred “Sedi” Elrington.
KREM’s News Director Marisol Amaya and other media representatives interviewed Minister Elrington when he was leaving a United Democratic Party Council Meeting at the party’s headquarters on Saturday.
Amaya asked Elrington if it is his sense that his party is in trouble, given the support for the BNTU that came from the Chamber of Commerce yesterday, Friday.
Elrington replied, “No, no, I think there is a misconception, really. In any democratic country, strikes are a given … there are strikes almost every week.”
“I am not concerned overly about strikes … Actually, I get the impression from listening to the union leaders that really and truly, they seem to have formed the view that neither the UDP nor the PUP are in fact doing what they think should be done, and that they are the saviors of the country,” Minister Elrington offered.
He added, “Well, that is not the role of a labor union. A labor union has an interest in looking after its constituents, the teachers. In this case, the teachers union should be looking after the teacher’s interest. And those interest would include making sure 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 county. And I don’t even know whether they have the wisdom or the ability or the competence to deal with those issues. That happens in small countries, I imagine.”
Minister Elrington is of the view that the teachers union have overstepped its area of interest and ventured into the political realm.
“I get the impression that teachers, certainly, the leadership of the Teachers Union, think they can supplant both the opposition party and the governing party. They seem to get some legitimacy in doing so, because everything they do the opposition latches on to it, the social partners latch on to it, as if they are now being led by the Teacher’s Union.”
Marisol pointed out to Minister Elrington that the union said it isn’t about toppling the government.
“Oh, that is their agenda, clear as daylight. You would have to be a fool not to know that. And the people who are lining up [with] them are all political hacks, who are hoping to be able to replace the present government,” Minister Elrington remarked.
Elrington said that up to the point in time when he left the UDP Party Council meeting, there was no discussion or strategy about dealing with the BNTU strike issue.
Of note is that the Deputy Prime Minister, Education Minister Patrick Faber, himself came to politics out of a classroom. He was once a teacher at Anglican Cathedral College (ACC). Former UDP Prime Minister Manuel Esquivel was also a teacher. He taught at St. John’s College.