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Mar 31, 2015

C.W.U. Disassociates Itself from Union Abstention on Petrocaribe Bill

Dean Barrow

On Monday, Senator Ray Davis surprisingly abstained from voting when the controversial Petrocaribe Bill, went before the Senate.  That abstention has surprised many and stirred up the ire of many others because now that it is passed, the law allows government to borrow and spend without house approval. The contentious piece of legislation was rushed through the House and passed last Friday. By Monday, it was before the Senate. Now, the senate meetings are not usually aired live, so it would have gone under the radar that the union representative had abstained on the vote. The abstention is a most unusual move because the National Trade Union Congress of Belize agitated for the enactment of the Finance and Audit Reform Act in 2010, compelling government to seek House approval on all loans exceeding ten million dollars.  Strangely, the N.T.U.C.B. has remained rather quiet on the issue, despite growing concern that the motion, as well as the manner in which it was introduced and subsequently passed, was pretty high-handed.  This afternoon, President Audrey Matura-Shepherd, on behalf of its membership, distanced the Christian Workers Union from Davis’ abstention.


Audrey Matura-Shepherd

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, President, Christian Workers Union

“Every entity that makes up the National Trade Union Congress is an independent body and as such we all as individual unions take positions and we can take positions collectively.  As far as I know there was no direction or instructions given to our senator to abstain from this matter and so I don’t know what happened behind the scenes why he abstained.  However, I would say that the position of the Christian Workers Union is definitely one where we cannot support the lack of accountability in any legislation.  Worse yet, we cannot support the use of our parliamentary system and power to legitimize and validate and conform illegal acts under our constitution and under our law.  So, giving our own position, it is strictly that we cannot support that bill and that is our position and I would hope that every other union would give their position and the N.T.U.C.B. would collectively give their position which I am sure they will do in due course.  But I think that it is important that it be known that the CWU distances itself from any decision to support that bill or to pretend it doesn’t exist or to abstain from it.  That, in good conscience, to the workers we represent cannot be the position we take. I can tell you that there is no official mandate from the N.T.U.C.B., at least not to me, not to my knowledge, that we should abstain.  But on the point of the history of the N.T.U.C.B. and pushing for legislation of accountability it does have a good track record and I don’t think maybe the decision of an individual or a few that seem to want to detract from that should be used against the N.T.U.C.B. as an entity.”

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