Also at the Labour Day Rally in Belize City we spoke to President of the NTUCB Marvin Mora for a response to the statements of Prime Minister Dean Barrow during Wednesday’s press conference in which he pointed out that the trade unions were and are part and parcel of the continued rollout of programs sponsored by the Petrocaribe initiative. He specifically pointed to their invitation to participate on the board of the National Bank and Belize Infrastructure Limited (BIL) and the Government’s ability to pay for a six percent salary adjustment from its own finances, which freed up other uses for Petrocaribe. Mora told us that while the trade unions and Belize’s workers generally support the intent of the Petrocaribe program, the use of the Petrocaribe Loans Act 2015 to under-gird it is something they cannot support
“The first is that the Petrocaribe bill itself and the fund are two different things. The Petrocaribe fund itself an initiative and the way it was planned out and agreed to by the government of Belize and Venezuela is something that the trade union supports, fully supports it. But in terms of the bill and what it does for accountability and transparency and how it flies in the face of all that the trade union has stood for in 2005 and 2010, obviously the union cannot see how we can reconcile our differences in that. Obviously, we’ve had a couple participation in some of the initiatives that are within the Petrocaribe fund itself—not the bill—and one of them is the participation in the Belize Infrastructure Limited. And even though we have our misgivings on it, we are in there because we want to make sure that accountability and transparency still is the order of the day.”
Mora told us that Dylan Reneau, his immediate predecessor as NTUCB president, no longer represents the Congress on the BIL board, but does represent public servants under the Public Service Union. Mora also confirmed that the unions had intended but ultimately decided not to join in with the Opposition’s protest in front of the Biltmore Plaza on Wednesday. He explains their rationale.
“Actually the Unions’ participation is something that we never could sit down and pan out because it happened sudden and you know how the trade union works; there must be consensus in a mass event like that. So we never did agree that we were going to go. We support morally of course the position taken by the Opposition because it’s streamline with the position that we are taking in that regards, but of course from different angles. We are looking at the best interests of the workers and there are workers issues that need to be addressed within that same context of the bill. That is the trade union’s stance. The stance of the Opposition may be for a different angel.”
And Mora says the Congress will carefully consider joining in on a possible national demonstration in 21 days should the Prime Minister, as he already indicated, not repeal the Act.
“The trade union congress leaves all options open and we will have to take a look at it, discuss it, trash it out amongst the delegation and once we agree to it, more than likely it will happen. But not until that consolidated and collectively thought process has been expended, then we go through that.”
The Belize National Teachers’ Union (BNTU) is currently in countrywide consultations to formulate its stance on the Act while the Christian Workers’ Union (CWU) led by Audrey Matura Shepherd has already come out strongly against it.