On Thursday night members of various organizations unionized by the Christian Workers Union (CWU) met to gauge support for a removal of two giants of union leadership in Belize –Antonio Gonzalez, long time president, and James McFoy, general secretary. Yesterday we brought you the men trying to organize the ouster, waterfront workers Raymond Rivers and Deon “Ras” Pitter, as they aired their many grievances and concerns with the leadership of Gonzalez and McFoy. They presented those grievances to the audience at the Bishop Sylvester Memorial Center and Deon Pitter explains why the time is now to drop the senior leadership.
Deon Pitter – Worker: [paraphrased]
We stevedores can’t do it by ourselves. We need everybody’s help, to come in and hold this man accountable for what he had done. I personally think a younger person should take over. I think Mr Gonzalez should be fired, and you will have to help me, because we’re young and still learning. We don’t know everything. We need help from Central Bank. We need help for our audit. We need help to bring accountability and transparency to the public, because this is for us.
Concerns raised from the floor included how the wider membership, which ranges from banana workers in the South to clerical employees at Central Bank and Social Security Board, will be reached. Unionist Dale Trujeque says that a 2/3 membership is needed to call a meeting and plan for elections which Gonzalez is on record as saying he will not contest.
Dale Trujeque – Unionist:
I was suggesting to the young lady that the proposal is to form an ad-hoc committee, to take over from them immediately. We’re willing to work with the committee. In my view, the committee ought to have a representative from each organization the CWU represents. So each of you would be fairly represented in that committee, until you can call a Union Convention as they call it in here, or a General Meeting as he referred to it in his letter. The Constitution says it is a Union Convention. You call that Convention. You elect a new executive body, and you begin to run your organization according to its Constitution, and what you don’t like in here, you get rid of according to the rules in here.
Stevedore and boxing trainer Leopold Smart harshly criticized Gonzalez’s approach to the union’s negotiations with the Port of Belize over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and demanded he leave voluntarily.
Leopold Smart – Stevedore: [paraphrased]
This man sold us out, but he sell out himself now. We are in charge of this thing. We could take it back anytime. This is the reason why I know that Mr Musa and his people have messed us around also, to see that we’re poor people, my brother.
There is no timeline on when the matter will be addressed, although the National Trade Union Congress of Belize has officially suspended the CWU for unrelated matters. Neither Gonzalez nor McFoy has responded publicly to the issues raised by the workers they represent.