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Oct 28, 2013

Christian Workers Union holds its congress

The anticipated congress of the Christian Workers Union proceeded on Saturday morning at Birds Isle. Tensions were bubbling for weeks because of a call for action from the stevedores while long time President Antonio Gonzalez and Secretary General James McFoy were of a different mind. In the backdrop was a threat of expulsion from the umbrella organization, the National Trade Union of Congress of Belize. Despite, a setback, the stevedores say the turnout was one of the biggest. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The buildup towards a general assembly of the membership of the Christian Workers Union, which included media appearances from both factions of the besieged organization, was a climactic campaign launched by Dion Pitter, Raymond Rivers and Dale Trujeque on Monday of last week.  By Thursday, the executive, comprised of President Antonio Gonzalez and general secretary James McFoy, had initiated its own countermeasures, dissuading affiliates of the CWU from attending the unsanctioned congress.  In the middle of that tug-of-war was an ultimatum by the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, threatening to expel the union from its fold had it not proceeded with the fixed meeting.


The stage having been set, Saturday’s turnout, well below the required two-thirds of the union’s overall membership, was rather underwhelming.  Whereas a minimum of four hundred and sixty-two affiliates was necessary in order to proceed with elections, a mere ninety-nine men and women from various entities within the CWU were present at the convention.


Adelaida Guerra

Adelaida Guerra, 1st VP, N.T.U.C.B.

“We are not able to proceed with the election process as mandated in the constitution.  We should have two-thirds of the membership.  To our knowledge it should have been about four hundred or more members to be present in order for us to have.  It’s true we have three entities present out of the nine entities or fifteen, I think, we have stevedores, social security and port authority.  So we have three entities and we have ninety-five members, ninety-nine members present.  So we have to decide what we could have.  We could have a meeting and decide the way forward, what is it that you people present here, the membership present here today, what is it that you want to see happen.”


While those in attendance were there primarily to usher in a sea of change, the opportunity for them to elect a new administration and commence their proverbial spring-cleaning wasn’t forthcoming.  The poor turnout, according to second vice president of the N.T.U.C.B. Marvin Mora, is a reflection of the majority’s lack on interest in the peaceful revolution.


Marvin Mora

Marvin Mora, 2nd VP, N.T.U.C.B.

“It is very clear to us that the majority of your union either is not interested in making the change that the N.T.U.C.B. is recommending [that] you guys have or that they don’t want to be included in this meeting for whatever reason.  Either way it is showing us that they are okay with whatever status quo is at your union’s management.  For that reason the N.T.U.C.B. can no longer continue to have the CWU as an affiliate because we have tried everything for years and we doubt that’s because of you the members.  We realize that if we disenfranchise them from affiliation to the National Trade Union Congress you the members are the ones that stand to lose.  It has reached to the point where we have to open up all the avenues for the general membership to come and make the decision that is necessary.  But the show that is here is definitely an indication to the National Trade Union Congress and anybody else who is interested in what is happening in your union that the membership or at least the majority of the membership within the Christian Workers Union is not interested in changing the status quo.”


Dion Pitter, who has been nominated for president, attributes the low number to inclement weather.  He, however, is energized by the fact that his fellow stevedores were there to support the cause.  This, says Pitter, has been the largest turnout since 2001.


Dion Pitter, Representative, CWU

Dion Pitter

“We couldn’t hold elections today because of the numbers.  Maybe because of the weather people weh mi really wahn come out couldn’t mek it because of the weather.  But fu this whole process it’s teaching, we have never been to this level when it comes to correct the wrong.  So it’s just teaching, the way forward and learning the process of how to do the correct thing.  It was a well informative meeting for me and I learned a lot.  We won’t back down, we will clean up CWU.  It’s just the process we have to go through now.”


Tabled during the meeting is the idea of forming another union, one that would be fully endorsed by the N.T.U.C.B.  That move, in Leopold Smart’s view, would be tantamount to pressing the reset button.  The Collective Bargaining Agreement, for which stevedores have been embroiled in a protracted back and forth with the management of Port of Belize, would be debased.


Leopold Smart

Leopold Smart, Stevedore

“If we move to another union and let go the CBA [Collective Bargaining Agreement] that we have, I call it a legacy because of the contents of the CBA.  So if we do that then we di stevedores wahn weaken wihself.  We noh wahn have di powa that we have right now because the CBA, I noh care weh nobody seh, the CBA is the power of the stevedores.”


The meeting resulted in the passage of several resolutions regarding the way forward.  Those resolutions, we note, are in light of the position taken by the majority of the membership via their respective shop stewards to defer the congress to February 2014. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.


The executive of the CWU has advised that it will not make further press comments to the media because it wishes not to continue with a back and forth. 

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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