Features — 13 June 2014 — by Kareem Clarke

PM says NTUCB’s “creation” of ROC was a “matter of self-interest”

Prime Minister Dean Barrow called an afternoon press conference today at the Radisson Fort George Hotel in Belize City to announce the government’s position on a series of social issues which have been on the national forefront recently – events which birthed the formation of an amalgamation of trade unions, along with social and activist organizations, which has become known as the “Rod of Correction” (ROC).

PM Barrow tackled the creation of that coalition, which, in a show of solidarity, sided with the Belize Grassroots Youth Empowerment Association (BGYEA) at their (BGYEA’s) “Plant di corn Rally” last Saturday, June 7, at Battlefield Park, and declared that he was not impressed by the new movement, especially considering the amount of supporters that showed up at the rally.

The Prime Minister insisted that while there may be a level of concern among the Belizean populace, the issues have been completely blown out of proportion, and he classified ROC as an attempt to provoke civil unrest, similar to what took place in 2005 based on the unpopularity of the then PUP administration.

He stated, “The meeting [last Thursday] certainly seems to have been convened and spearheaded by the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB). I found the press releases that the NTUCB put out in connection with their position to be extremely strident, to say the least. I found the rhetoric emerging from the interviews that the principals gave, in particular, the president of the NTUCB, to be disrespectful, entirely confrontational, and rude.

“I am not going to respond in kind. I do want to make clear, though, that I see the rhetoric as out of all proportion to the issues raised. There is no doubt that a number of things have bubbled recently, and that there is a degree of disquiet on the part of several sectors of the society pertaining to some of the issues raised, but having conceded that, I have to say that the position adopted, the effort made to suggest that the sky is falling down, is absolutely unsustainable when you look at the facts. I get the sense that the desire is to provoke the kind of crisis that we saw in 2005. But the situation then was entirely different from the situation now. For one thing, I, as Prime Minister, am not in Belmopan cutting deals or signing illegal guarantees.”

He alluded that the ROC’s “unsuccessful” turnout on Saturday was a result of ROC’s trying to “manufacture a fit that isn’t there”, and not a result of any victimization tactics by GOB.

While the PM says ROC may be trying to fuel a fire that doesn’t exist, he also conceded that the concerns expressed by entities such as the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU), the Pharmacists’ Association, and the Nurses’ Association, are legitimate. He said that while the discussions continue with all those groups, the NTUCB is putting ROC together as a matter of self-interest – particularly a desire to have their demands met in a Collective Bargaining Agreement which is currently being worked out by the NTUCB and GOB.

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