By Benjamin Flowers Staff Reporter
The Minister of Education, Hon. Patrick Faber, took to the offensive against the Belize National Teachers Union and the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry this week, when speaking about the teachers’ rallies for their salary adjustments.
Faber, speaking at a Special Sitting of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, chastised the BNTU for closing schools to hold rallies, and the BCCI for supporting them.
He emphasized that the rallies could be held without disrupting classes, pointing out that the movement did not even have the support of all teachers.
“In Belize City, Belize District Mr. Speaker, where there are 1,700 teachers, they could have only mustered 400 or 500 to go to the rally? That means that 1,200 teachers, Mr. Speaker, did not go.”
Faber denied claims that the ministry intimidated teachers to influence the turnout at the rally. “If you want to go then go,” Faber said, assuring that the ministry would not penalize teachers for attending the rallies.
After lecturing the teachers, he turned his attention to the BCCI, saying that if the chamber really wanted to support Belizeans, they would raise minimum wage.
“If they think that the Government can afford a raise for the public servants, then why is it that they can’t afford to raise the minimum wage?” Faber asked.
He also frowned on the BCCI for not clamping down on merchants who he says, fleeces the Belizean people by charging high fees on goods.
“I don’t see them championing the cause of taking down the price of goods,” he said.
On Friday, January 10, the BNTU began its country wide tour of rallies beginning in Corozal and Orange Walk, under the theme “Teechaz gat yoh bak”.
The rallies came to the Belize district last Friday, and will continue in Cayo on Friday, January 24.
BNTU President Luke Palacio says the rallies are driven by the need for teachers to have the salary adjustment promised by Prime Minister Dean Barrow, to cope with escalating costs of living.
“The only ‘P’ we are dealing with out here my brothers and sisters is “pay”.
The BCCI press release stated, “The Chamber supports the Teachers in their demand for a wage adjustment that better reflects the increased cost of living experienced by all Belizeans and the importance of the teaching profession for our country.”