Deon Pitter takes last seat on CWU Executive

A run-off election for the final slot in the Christian Workers’ Union’s (CWU) seven-member executive took place at their Belize City vlcsnap-2014-07-07-21h29m27s251headquarters on Saturday. 134 votes were cast of which one was spoilt. The winner was Deon Pitter, who beat Maureen Mahmud Reyes by 74 votes to 49. The Union’s executive had been re-organized under the leadership of attorney Audrey Matura-Shepherd following the exit of long-time leaders Antonio Gonzalez and James McFoy under a cloud of suspicion. They were charged with alleged mismanagement of Union finances and general inability to represent the vast majority of workers the CWU claims. We spoke with Pitter shortly after his victory and asked what his victory means for settling the stevedores’ issues.

Deon Pitter; Elected to CWU Executive:

“The reality is that we have to unify fi we self first. We have fi sit down with fi we leadership and teach them the risk of out there and from there we could get fi we team and we could get round the table.”

Reporter: “Now you all are a particularly vocal constituency, the stevedores of Belize, but the CWU represents a far greater number of workers across the country. How do you plan to, as a member of the executive now, plan to reach out to these people?

Deon Pitter; Elected to CWU Executive:

“All ah we wah sit down and brain storm how we fi collect with fi we people. But I could tell you that we will head fi mek CWU be the best union eena Belize.”

Union president Audrey Matura-Shepherd told us that the Union’s work has continued on pace despite the final place on the executive not being filled for eight months. But the Union’s troubles are not quite over. Ahead of an Executive Committee meeting held on Saturday afternoon, we asked Matura-Shepherd how the investigation into the stewardship of Gonzalez and McFoy is going and she vlcsnap-2014-07-07-21h29m38s110made some startling revelations.

Audrey Matura Shepherd, President, Christian Workers Union

“That has been for a while. What I think people don’t know because we kept it very quite is that at one point, the former president and general secretary even took us to the Labour Department claiming that we owe them money, and I mean thousands of dollars; when they have never accounted for the money here. We’ve asked them for records. We’ve requisitioned meetings with them so that they can hand over records and they haven’t. So that’s one of the options we have; to go to court to get them to do it because there is provision under the law that they need to do it. So we were able to show the Labour Department where they have erred and that they cannot now want to capitalise on the fact that they kept very poor records. They can’t come and say now that based on what they are saying that they are owed money when our records are showing that at least in one instance that one of them even made a loan from the union. But there is no resolution that showed that any executive committee did that. So one of the things we’ve been able to do is; big decisions go to the executive committee. Today we are having an executive committee meeting ‘cause there are some serious issues we need to deal with. So while you may not hear much about us, behind the scenes a lot of negotiations going on and a lot of structures and administrative issues are being resolved.”

Saturday’s election was managed by the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB), with which the CWU recently re-affiliated.

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