Stevedores angry with the leadership of the Christian Workers’ Union (CWU) had vowed to proceed with a convention intended to oust president Antonio Gonzalez and general secretary James McFoy, despite the official disapproval of the majority of the eleven bargaining units within the Union. These units had agreed to postpone the meeting to February of 2014 because of financial issues. The meeting was held on Saturday at Birds’ Isle with the official patronage of the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB), which had threatened to expel the Union. But when the meeting got started after eleven under rainy skies, it was clear that at 99 registered members the meeting was well short of the 2/3 quorum needed to hold elections. So the meeting became more of a fact-finding mission for the disgruntled stevedores, as they sought means of executing their next options. In that, says NTUCB second vice president Marvin Mora, they have the Union’s support.
“Listen to me very carefully: we are not let you guy through this alone. Is that very clear to everybody? You have the full support of the NTUCB to deal with this issue. Do you understand? However, the communication aspect is what has always been able to try off over these types of efforts. It is important that you guys always hear what the NTUCB is saying. If that would have been the case today of over 500 people here and nobody would be able to challenge the decision taken here because it would have been taken by the majority, which is what your constitution mandates: Two thirds and that’s it…and if two thirds would be here today, McFoy and Mr. Gonzalez would have to take their stuff out of your office because you guys would have already given the go ahead for them to be fired”.
Also present was former unionist and former Mayor of Belize City Zenaida Moya, who recalled her days with the Union.
“I want to speak because in 1995, I was a member of the Christian Workers Union. I worked at Social Security board 95-96-97…and in 2003, as a member of the NTUCB at that time, myself representing the Association of Public Service Senior Managers, from 2003-2004 and 2005. We in the NTUCB were pushing for there to be an AGM of the CWU. Lorrelyn Westby, you were a part; you were right there sitting around the table with me at the NTUCB. Lorrelyn is there. You understand? So, it is not now that the NTUCB and I say we, have been trying to make sure that an AGM happen from back then! “
Ultimately, the stevedores took the decision to, for the next six months, withhold the dues paid to the Union through their employers and use that money to obtain a court order or injunction asking Gonzalez and McFoy to provide information on the membership and financial status of the Union. Additionally, it was unanimously resolved to ask the Tripartite Body formed under the labour laws to officially poll CWU members asking whether they want to continue being part of the Union. Theoretically the stevedores could vote to leave the Union or wait until the election, as Gonzalez has made it clear he will not seek re-election although he wants to resolve some ongoing negotiations. Stevedore leader Dion Pitter described the event as a ‘learning experience’ for him and his fellows. The event was reportedly held for a fraction of what it was reported to cost the Union to do so.