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Belmopan. September 19, 2016. Four ambassadors presented their credentials to the Governor General of Belize H.E. Sir Colville Young today, Monday, at the Belize House in the City of Belmopan.

The Governor General welcomed and received the credentials of H.E Jorge Roza de Oliveira, Ambassador of Portugal; H.E. Margriet Leemhuis, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands; H.E. Malgorzata Wasilewska, Ambassador of the European Union; and H.E. Lee In-ho, Ambassador of the Republic of South Korea. The Governor General also welcomed H.E. Muktesh Pardeshi, High Commissioner of India to Mexico, who paid a courtesy call.

The ambassadors expressed their pleasure in being in Belize and congratulated the country on its 35th year as an independent nation. Each ambassador conveyed their country’s intention to continue to develop their diplomatic relations with Belize.

“I would like to be known as a good Belizean, one who went through life in a pilgrimage and left the world a better place than he found it.” — George Cadle Price (January 15,1919 – September 19, 2011)

On this day, 5 years ago, Belize lost its Father of Independence, the Rt. Hon. George Cadle Price. Today, in his honour, Belizeans across the country remember Belize’s first Prime Minister through community service acts as we celebrate National Service Day.

We join the nation in remembering the man who fought for the independence we celebrated for the first time 35 years ago. Thank you, Rt. Hon. George Cadle Price!

September 15, 2016

A meeting was held in Belmopan this afternoon in which Northern Bus Owners sat down with Minister of State for Transport Hon. Edmond Castro and Chief Transport Officer Tirsio Galvez to discuss and address issues affecting the Public Transportation Industry in that zone.
This is part of a nationwide review and restructuring of the industry, including the rationalization and regularization of rates, as well as the improvement of the quality of service provided to the public. This meeting with the Northern Bus Owners is a follow up to an earlier meeting with the Chief Transport Officer.
Hon. Castro says the proposed changes and adjustments agreed upon in principle will be taken to Cabinet and the Transport Board for finalization and implementation.

The Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture (MoEYSC) hereby informs all parents, guardians, students, teachers, principals, and the wider public that in accordance with the Education Rules, Managing Authorities will take necessary measures to ensure that schools and institutions are kept open for classes and to ensure that there is safety for students and teachers present at a school or institution during the industrial action planned by the Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU) for this Monday, September 19, 2016. Parents, guardians, students, teachers, principals, Managing Authorities and school bus operators are informed that school buses will run their normal schedules on Monday, September 19, 2016.

The Education and Training Act, No. 3 of 2010 Laws of Belize is the Act that governs education generally and the employment, management and discipline of teachers. The Act defines ‘ teacher’ as a person employed for the purpose of instructing students. The Act is buttressed by the Education Rules and the Education (Amendment) Rules, the latter of which is embodied in Statutory Instrument No. 87 of 2012. The framers of the rules have recognized the right of teachers to be involved in industrial action. In section 101 A it provides:

“ A labour dispute which may involve or give rise to industrial action by teachers or instructors shall be determined in accordance with any law or enactment, which makes provision for the determination of such disputes.”.
[Emphasis added]

The Trade Disputes (Arbitration and Inquiry) Act , Chapter 299 of the Laws of Belize, defines “trade dispute” to mean:

“any dispute or difference between employers and workmen, or between workmen and workmen, or between employers and trade unions, connected with the employment or non-employment, or the terms of the employment, or the condition of labour, of any person, or trade union recognition.”

It is worthy to note that a similar definition is also found in the in the Trade Unions Act Chapter 300 Laws of Belize.

Rule 102 of the Education (Amendment) Rules of 2012 prescribes the roles and responsibilities of Managing Authorities during industrial action:

102 (1) If a labour dispute results in industrial action by teachers or instructors, salaries and wages of persons undertaking such action may not be paid for any day or portion of a day during which they are on strike.

(2) Teachers or instructors not on strike shall report to work unless circumstances beyond their control prevent them from doing so.

(3) It shall be the duty of the Managing Authority to maintain a record of those teachers or instructors who are not present at school during the strike.

(4) It shall be the duty of the Managing Authority to take necessary measures to ensure that schools and institutions are kept open for classes and to ensure that there is safety for students and teachers present at a school or institution during a strike.

(5) Where the Principal or Manager has reasonable grounds to believe that the safety of students and members of staff not on strike may be at risk, the Principal or Manager may close the school or institution and advise the Managing Authority and the District Education Centre of his decision”.

It is to be noted that whenever a the BNTU calls a meeting or other activity that it is a common practice of some principals to send notes to parents and guardians through their children informing that there would be no classes because of the planned union meeting or activity. Everyone’s attention is being drawn to the fact that principals have no such authority unless approval has been given for such meetings or other activity. Any principal who does so would be committing an offence and be liable to appropriate disciplinary action.

The President of the BNTU in a letter to the Prime Minister, dated September 12, 2016 put forward eight (8) demands. The Prime Minister in a letter to the President of the BNTU, dated September 14, 2016 responded to each of these demands. The Prime Minister also expressed his willingness, indeed his desire, to meet with the Council of Management as he did not believe that ‘a mere written response can do full justice to your [the BNTU’s] issues.’

The BNTU nevertheless is proceeding with planned industrial action. Indeed, they have sent out notices to members one of which states that: ‘We proceed with this demonstration on Monday, regardless of the response we get from the PM…’.

Given the Prime Minister’s response and willingness to meet with the BNTU’s Council of Management, it is our considered view that the position of the BNTU as reflected in that statement is not only unreasonable but also a display of bad faith. The BNTU’s demands and the Prime Minister’s responses to them can be viewed on the GOB’s website for side by side comparison for all to see.

Within the above context then, the MoEYSC hereby informs all parents, guardians, students, teachers, principals, and the wider public that in accordance with the Education Rules, Managing Authorities will take necessary measures to ensure that schools and institutions are kept open for classes and to ensure that there is safety for students and teachers present at a school or institution during the industrial action planned by the Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU) for this Monday, September 19, 2016. Parents, guardians, students, teachers, principals, Managing Authorities and school bus operators are informed that school buses will run their normal schedules on Monday, September 19, 2016.

Belmopan, Belize. September 14th, 2016. At the Invitation of United States of America Secretary of State John Kerry, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belize, Honourable Wilfred Elrington, will attend the third annual Our Ocean Conference, held in Washington, D.C. Taking place from the 15-16th September 2016, in conjunction with Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and the Sustainable Ocean’s alliance, the conference aims to “inspire and empower a new generation of leaders, entrepreneurs, scientists, and civil society to identify solutions and commit to actions to protect and conserve our oceans and its resources.”

The Our Ocean Conference encompasses many pertinent issues relating to Belize such as marine protected areas and sustainable fisheries. Some of the major challenges to fisheries in Belize involve illegal unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Our nation’s waters currently experience illegal fishing and exportation of products to neighboring countries, accounting for almost 15% of national fisheries. Varying initiatives have been undertaken by the Government of Belize to curb this issue, such as the introduction of a Managed Access management system, wherein fishers choose two of nine fishing areas where they are expected to remain in the future. Additionally, the Belize Fisheries Department has enhanced its enforcement capabilities through increased training of personnel, the testing of new technologies such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), among others, which aims to ultimately reduce costs on patrols.

Moreover, international cooperation remains at the helm of facilitating real and lasting change. The Foreign Minister’s attendance of the Our Ocean Conference provides a necessary platform to open dialogue on these issues affecting Belize, as well as the rest of the world. As demonstrated by the conference since its inception, the global community is well aware of the threats facing our oceans and its resources and the need for organized action. Honourable Wilfred Elrington departed country on Tuesday and will return on Saturday.

Minister of State with responsibility for Transport Hon Edmond Castro has met with representatives from the faculty and student body of Galen University to discuss matters relating to public transportation.

The Representatives from the university were led by Sherry A. Gibbs, Dean of Arts and Science; and Martin Cuellar, Dean of Student Life, Student Enrollment and Admissions.

They discussed matters of public transportation affecting faculty members and students of the university who regularly commute to and from school. They also discussed the possibility of the university setting up and executing research to gather relevant data on public transportation that would greatly assist the Ministry and Department in sound decision-making.

The representatives from Galen University say they are happy to have been able to meet with the Minister of State and were very pleased with the discussion

As part of a countrywide assessment and restructuring of the Public Transportation System, and the rationalization and regularization of rates, Minister of State with responsibility for Transport Hon. Edmond Castro has met with bus operators from the Southern Districts of Stann Creek and Toledo.

Accompanied by his CEO in the Ministry of Transport and National Emergency Management, Ruth Meighan, and Chief Transport Officer Tirsio Galvez, Hon. Castro sat down with the operators in an extended session, reviewing important issues affecting the public transportation system in the South and working out essential details relating to the operation of their buses, fares and quality of service provided to the public.

The Minister of State and his top officials from the Ministry and Department of Transport held similar meetings last week with bus operators from the North and West, as well as taxi operators from the western-border town of Benque Viejo.

Following his meetings, Hon. Castro is taking to Cabinet and the Transport Board the matters discussed and agreed upon in principle, after which he will meet again with the operators to finalize decisions arrived at.

Belmopan. September 13, 2016. The Office of the Prime Minister announces that it has received the formal response of the Joint Unions’ Negotiating Team to Government’s request for consideration of a deferral of the third tranche of the Salary Adjustment until April 2017. The Association of Public Service Senior Managers (APSSM) voted yes to deferral, and so did the Public Service Union (PSU), but the Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU) voted no, leading to a two to one split in favour of deferral.

In view of the impasse among the Unions, the Prime Minister has asked for an urgent meeting to see if their differing positions can be reconciled and some common ground found. Naturally, the public will be kept informed.

Ends

Belmopan. September 13, 2016. Cabinet is prepared to support a Senate Select Committee rather than a bi-cameral Joint Select Committee inquiry into the Auditor-General’s Immigration Special Report.

Cabinet has taken this position in view of the reconsideration by the Belize Chamber of Commerce and by the Belize Council of Churches, both of whom were originally in favour of going the bi-cameral route. Cabinet is also persuaded by the fact that a seemingly substantial portion of the public apparently prefers the Senate to conduct the hearings, and by the further fact that the ultimate objective of holding such hearings will be served by either of the two routes on the table. There is thus no need for Cabinet to insist on its own preference for the bi-cameral method. Cabinet also agrees that one of the Social Partner Senators should chair the Senate Select Committee. Cabinet does insist, however, that the composition of the Committee reflect the balance of power in the Chamber, as is mandated by Standing Orders.

Accordingly, Cabinet supports a proposal from the Council of Churches and the Belize Association of Evangelical Christians that the Special Senate Select Committee be made up of the three Social Partners, one from the Opposition and three from Government. The Committee would be chaired by one of the Social Partners.

Ends