Kindly permit me space in your valuable newspaper to shed some light on the recent and planned “illegal” activity of the BNTU and its member teachers.
As past leader of a trade union and associate of the National Teachers Union (NTU), my fifty-six (56) years of experience in labour and industrial relations give me reason to side with the Prime Minister and the Government of Belize by advising the BNTU and its members that it is not within its premise to make demands and dictate to the Government on its “constitutional” authority to “govern”.
I opine that the BNTU and its members have the right to make suggestions to the Prime Minister on issues affecting the country and its people and may forward recommendations of relevance, but under no circumstance can they usurp the constitutional authority of the Government.
The only time that the BNTU and its members can undertake industrial action, is during the course of contract negotiations that result in disagreement and an ultimate impasse and also if there are complaints of contract infringement with no amicable solution.
You said it truthfully, in paragraph 5 of your editorial in today’s Amandala, and I quote: “This is a tricky situation for the teachers, because it is not their calling after all, to be staring down governments. Needless to say, it is in their classroom where they belong”.
As a union of professionals in an industrial setting, if the BNTU and its members have a contractual dispute, there are legal protocols to be followed, the first of which is to direct the matter in dispute to the Labour Commissioner, who should undertake conciliatory measures followed by mediation and finally, should there be no solution, then the matter can be brought to the Minister of Labour for a possible arbitration by one of 5 qualified individuals.
Sorry, comrades, I cannot be with you on this one. as the word “strike” is defined in the Labour Act Chapter 297 revised edition 16th April, 2011 to mean:
A partial or total withdrawal of services from an employer by two or more workers, in concert or pursuant to a common understanding , or at the request or upon the order of their bargaining agent, either
(a) as a protest against a condition of work or employer action related thereto, or
(b) As a device to induce or compel the employer, or his bargaining agent, to accept conditions of employment which they have requested and which request has been refused, and includes an action designed to induce or compel the acceptance by another employer or his bargaining agent , of conditions of employment which his workers have requested and which request has been refused.
Demands, complaints and dictates may only be ascribed to contractual issues between the employer and its workers. In the Bible, the book of Romans 13: 1,2 states: Everyone “must obey” the state authorities, because no authority exists without God’s permission and the existing authorities have been put there by God. Whoever opposes the existing authority opposes what God has ordered and anyone who does so will bring judgement on himself.
Finally, as a word of advice. The education of our children is supremely important to our nation and it can be technically compared to an “essential service”. Please do not provoke the Government as the Christian Workers Union and its stevedore members did in 2015. You know the result if you were paying attention: By Gazetted statutory instrument the “Port of Belize” was classified as an essential service. Do you want the educational system to be classified as such?
Adolphus A. Rosales