Earlier this week we brought you the insurgent waterfront workers who are demanding that the Christian Workers’ Union (CWU) go through with a meeting scheduled for October 26, at which they intend to put long-time president Antonio Gonzalez and general secretary James McFoy to pasture. The two men have led the Union for 21 years, since 1992, but Dion Pitter and Raymond Rivers are orchestrating a sort of coup d’etat despite not having the support of the majority of union representatives from the over 15 entities that the Union represents. On Thursday, Antonio Gonzalez and James McFoy hit back. Mr Gonzalez said that despite the efforts of Mr Pitter and Mr Rivers, the meeting was not officially called by them and is therefore illegal.
“That change was made, so we are surprised now that there is a fraction, and I say a small fraction of the stevedores, because I think that I say, a record that a lot of stevedores are not supporting the actions, so they are moving as it, so asI said, we are surprised that they come up now that they want to still it-impose a meeting on Saturday, which the Christian Workers Union has not sanctioned, authorized and officially to say that this meeting is beyond for the 26th of October”.
Antonio Gonzalez says the Congress cannot be held because of financial issues. A planned audit of the organization was put off. But the embattled president says that before he leaves for good in February of next year, he wants the chance to settle some important negotiations.
Mr. Antonio Gonzalez- President of Christian Workers Union
“We have now whereby we have our monthly executive meetings, quarterly general council meetings, checks and balances as to the disbursements and payments of these monies…myself for the short period, which is up to February 2014, myself we have to deal with the…we have a lot of negotiations and work to do. We have about four areas that we have to negotiate collective agreements. We have new people that we mentioned earlier that just came in. We have to draw four proposals for these people. We can’t lef dehn on the side of the road. We have to continue the work. And we believe the extension for the postponement, which we ahn grip hold to, fit those issues for most in completion for all of them”.
The meeting must be called by the Executive Committee of the Union – the aforementioned 15 representatives, who met and voted 13-2 (the stevedores dissenting) to postpone the meeting. James McFoy revealed that this week, the police got involved when Pitter and Rivers tried to hold a meeting at the CWU headquarters on Cemetery Road. It doesn’t matter, he said, what the outcome of Saturday’s meeting is.
“And so, the police got involved. When the police weh…if not in the case, I have to call on my superior, I ask them what to do. When the superior got back to him, the conference was already leaving; so, that gone like that. But police called me last night and asked me what da the position. I said , well, the way we a look at it, that congress will be illegal and that they have to contest to certain obligations. They are asking those same questions that you ask. Come Monday, because that went through our heads also. Just as I say, we no wah no confrontation. But if they said according through, I don’t know if they got the majority or what. But say for instance that they come close through, the position will be, what step next because if e no legal, then they can’t come eenah the office. So, that is our position”.
Interestingly, the union leaders cite minutes of the October 18 meeting that they claim show that both Mr Pitter and Mr Rivers voted in favour of postponing the meeting and say that they changed their mind after “advice” from outside sources. Dion Pitter and Raymond Rivers have maintained that they never voted against postponing the meeting.
The other part of the equation is the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB), which has supported the stevedores’ call for a meeting and has threatened to expel and decertify the CWU if it does not go through. Besides pointing out that they had nothing to do with the decision to postpone, and were not even at the meeting in question, Antonio Gonzalez and James McFoy say the NTUCB does not have the power it threatens to use.
Mr. Antonio Gonzalez: “The National Trade Union Congress, if they decide, yes, they can expel the Christian Workers. But they haven’t come to the Christian Workers Union and ask us the reasons why of the change, So, if they want to go ahead, they can expel the Christian Workers Union. What they can’t do is to decertify the Christian Workers Union.”
Reporter: “They try policy”.
Mr. Antonio Gonzalez: “They try policy? They try to confuse the people, the minds of some of our members and some of our members got an eye and worth, what if they decertify fuh we Union? NTUCB does not have that legal power to decertify. The NTUCB is just an umbrella organization. You either belong to it, or no belong to it”.
According to James McFoy, only the Ministry of Labour, through its tripartite body, can call for such decertification and only after a protracted process. Also according to Mr McFoy, the NTUCB were invited to audit the organization but after an initial meeting they have not continued. It comes as a surprise to him, therefore, that the NTUCB is talking about money going missing at the CWU.
“If what you are hearing is true that money is missing and money is which has, up to yesterday or the day before, I still hear them with some millions of dollars, they say. Cheesy way! How many members we got to have to have $8M?….caz only $10 per individual a month, and it appears that they are not even considering the overheads extents, rents, utilities, salaries…they are not even looking at that. They have to show you how much they know because they are not even taking that into consideration. All they are saying is the dues that we’ve collected and so many millions we have…and we can’t account for so many millions! One of them just said this morning, they are not auditor and don’t know about figures, but they still defy our figures in our media about millions, but he does not know about auditing…but he can still say, millions are missing”.
James McFoy told PLUS News that he does not see where the insurgent leaders can call for his and Antonio Gonzalez’s head.
“We had meetings with the same executive crowd, and they voiced to us the very concern about their CBA. They want to be left in a vacuum. They look at us and they ask us the question if we are prepared to continue negotiating their CBA. We told them; if you all want us to, we will be willing to complete or start your CBA. That is the position. We believe, after hearing it, the majority of them want us to com[;ete their CBA. They said that.”