The National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) and Social Security Board (SSB) remain at odds over the appointment of Floyd Neal, General Secretary of the Christian Workers’ Union (CWU), to the Board as a union representative.
The Board, led by chairman Doug Singh, maintains that this is a conflict of interest as it relates to CWU matters being discussed at the Board level, particularly with regards to collective bargaining for the Union’s members.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow told reporters on Wednesday that that opinion is buttressed by legal opinion.
“I’ve had legal advice on the matter, and that advice is that the appointment of Mr Neal would constitute a conflict of interest. I have looked at the advice. I have looked at the circumstances. I’ve made up my own mind, and I too am convinced that it would represent a conflict of interest.
The NTUCB is clearly not so persuaded. I’ve suggested that they might want to take their own legal advice, and once they do that I would certainly be prepared to look at the opinion they procure, assuming that the opinion will take a position different from the one I have taken, and I will try to be open minded, and if there is anything in that opinion that can persuade me to change my own mind, I would be happy to do so.”
According to the Prime Minister he still holds out hope for the matter to be settled as it is disrupting the flow of business of the Board, the NTUCB having decided to boycott meetings of the Board until Neal is installed. If the NTUCB obtains a legal opinion that is sufficiently convincing to him, he says, he would reconsider. Today we got a response from Marvin Mora, NTUCB president, who says that the Congress’ General Council met last night and approved obtaining that legal opinion. However, he said, the congress has not changed its views about what conflict of interest means.
“What happens is that whenever we engage in a process, the Trade Union Congress has to ensure that you suffice that process. We’ve already initiated dialogue between the congress and the office of the Finance Minister, which in this case is the Prime Minister.
We offered that we are going to get a legal opinion, as he said he was going to get an opinion from Bradley.
All of these things have to be taken into consideration by the General Council, before the General Council itself makes a determination, after we receive that opinion from them.”
Marvin Mora told us that contrary to the Prime Minister’s view that the conflict is not personal, positioning Floyd Neal on the Board does offer the SSB practical benefits.
“Let’s assume you are to be appointed to the Board of BEL, but you are a worker of BEL, but you belong to an association that has shares in BEL, and that association gives you representative of BEL. Will that be conflict of interest whenever addressing any issue of collective bargaining? Of course it will be, but only for that particular issue.
At the same time, it would be probably the wise thing for the board to do, to consult with you whenever they get any proposals coming within that collective bargaining process, simply because you are a worker and you have the experience and you have the expertise that they need to make a balanced decision.
Just sticking to decisions coming directly from their management, without having the benefit of hearing the workers’ angle.”
The NTUCB is not considering a replacement for Floyd Neal, out of respect to the CWU’s opportunity to be represented.
Marvin Mora told us that the General Council will make a decision as to how to address future meetings of the SSB Board, as union representation is necessary to make quorum.