The Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) along with the Ministry of Education are scheduled to meet with representatives of Grant-Aided Managing Authority of Schools (GAMAS) to address their failure to pay their portion of staff pension.
This was confirmed on Thursday by the President of the BNTU, Elena Smith, who indicated that the long-awaited meeting is scheduled to take place the first week in April and apart from discussing the overall contributory pension scheme, it will also touch on what appears to be GAMAS repeated failure to pay their percentage of the pension for some of their members. While the discussions are being anticipated, Smith said that ''things seem positive,'' and that the BNTU is looking forward to those discussions.
Several weeks ago, prior to the announcement of the introduction of a contributory pension scheme, when we spoke to Smith, she revealed that several teachers of grant-aided schools have been complaining that their managers have not been paying the 30% towards their pension. She said that in most cases, those teachers have been forced to take their management to court in an effort to get back the money owed to them since their management wasn't honoring the agreement thereby leaving teachers with only 70% of their pension.
On Thursday, when we reached out to the Secretary of GAMAS, Maria Johnston, she indicated that while she could confirm that GAMAS would be meeting with the BNTU and the Ministry of Education, she could not offer any comment on the situation at the time, but would have to consult with members prior to issuing any statement or comment.
While we await those official comments from GAMAS, BNTU's president Elena Smith offered her comment on the overall reform of the pension scheme and its transition to a contributory scheme along with an increase in the retirement age for public officers, including teachers, saying, ''Well we are awaiting the proposal from the government team so we can analyze and look at how it will affect our teachers. When we get that, then we will be able to determine if we accept or will provide counterproposals.''
For grant-aided schools, the government is entitled to pay teachers and support staff 70% of their pension, while the remaining 30% is paid by the school's management. Over the years, there have been repeated calls by teachers alleging that some school management has not been fulfilling their end of the bargain resulting in the BNTU, requesting assistance from the Ministry of Education on numerous occasions to no avail.