Saturday, July 13, 2024

Unions start week-long series of protests; main roads and highways blocked

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The Belize National Teacher’s Union (BTNU), the Association of Public Service Senior Managers (PSU), and the Public Service Union have rejected the government’s proposed 10% salary cut. To further pressure the government, they have planned a week-long series of industrial actions expected to culminate with a massive nationwide strike. The first event took place on Monday, April 19th, as members of the unions blocked main highways leading to Belize City on the mainland.

BNTU members on the island recently protested on Friday, April 16th. They joined their counterparts across the country and called on the government to collect unpaid taxes from large companies. The picketing on Friday targeted telecommunication giants Belize Telemedia Limited and Smart Belize.

In San Pedro Town, no traffic block was reported, but demonstrations are expected this week.

The traffic blockage on Monday concentrated in and at the entrances to Belize City. No activity was reported in San Pedro. Adhering to protocol, the jam was only allowed for 15 minutes and saw blockages on the Haulover Bridge of the Philip Goldson Highway, north of Belize City. At the Hattieville Bridge on the George Price Highway south of the city and other key entrances to the old capital. Many commuters were affected, and those traveling on public transportation opted to walk the remaining distance to their destinations.

The protesters, teachers, and public officers parked their vehicles across the highway and popped open their hoods, purporting ‘mechanical problems.’ According to the schedule of activities, the days to come will see boycotts to places such as gas stations, appearances on tv/radio talk shows, boycotting telecommunication companies, and walking out of their workplaces.

 Industrial action must unions say

Governor General of Belize Colville Young

The PSU issued a statement on Sunday, April 18th, indicating that industrial action is a must after the Minister of Public Service sent a letter informing them of considering invoking Section 106 (3) of the Constitution of Belize. With this section of the Constitution, the minister apparently plans to have the Governor General make regulations regarding salaries.

The statement also noted that their demand for good governance concerning the full implementation of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption-UNCAC and other transparency and accountability legislation is reinforced. They claimed that the government had informed them that such requests would be delayed due to a shortage of legal drafters. The unions find this excuse unacceptable as they believe any reform and recovery plan must hinge on good governance.

The unions stand firm in demonstrating until the demanded legislation is implemented. Their position on ‘No Salary Cut’ remains unchanged.

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