BELIZE CITY, Mon. Nov. 28, 2016–Teachers were overjoyed last Monday when Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin ruled that the Ministry of Education should not withhold its salary contributions for those teachers who had vacated classrooms in eleven days of protest.
But on Friday, that joy quickly dissipated when teachers lined the banks only to realize that their last pay before Christmas had been docked.
However, school managers had been forewarned of what could occur on Thursday in a memorandum signed by Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education, Carol Babb.
“In light of the Court Order restraining the Government of Belize/Ministry of Education until trial or further Order of the Court from withholding salaries for individual teachers for the days, when those teachers were on strike, the Ministry of Education and Treasury Department are doing their best to process payment of full salaries for the November period in keeping with the order,” the memorandum said.
The Memorandum concluded, “in schools where time-off is normally given for teachers to collect pay, such time-off should be deferred to a date in the week of November 27, 2016, when it will be confirmed that salaries will be ready for teachers in all such schools.”
In an interview with 7News on Friday, president of the Belize National Teachers’ Union, Luke Palacio, said, “Dr. Carol Babb continues to try and be disobedient and disrespectful even to the courts of this country that have given her instructions, have given the ministry the instructions that the teachers are to be paid today.”
“In fact, we contacted her yesterday … she promised that whatever the outcome we would have been informed in writing, a copy of whatever decision would have been sent to us. We attempted to get in touch with Carol Babb after 4:30 and she did not respond to our call. And it was afterwards we started hearing from different teachers and management that such a memo had gone out. We find that to be very disrespectful,” Palacio added.
Palacio reflected on the ruling by the CJ last week and added, “The instructions were clear. We in fact have refrained from going to the media with these matters because the matter is before the court. But it is hurting our teachers and it is intentional on the part of the Chief Education Officer and whoever is aiding and abetting her in the actions she is taking at this time.”
According to Palacio, he believes that Babb and whoever is, “aiding and abetting her are equally as vindictive.”
“Those pay-sheets with the deductions were submitted to the ministry early in the month on the instruction of Carol Babb. A number of the pay-sheets were already completed and we see no reason why, if those were already completed, why those teachers would not have been paid. In some districts where teachers are given time off to go collect their pay, they had instructed their students, as usual, that on the last Friday of the month there would have been no classes, because there would have been no school transportation as well,” he explained.
An irate Palacio told the media that it was not until 4 p.m. on Thursday when students had been dismissed that teachers were told by their school managers that they, the teachers, should report to school on Friday.