NTUCB Expels Christian Workers Union Print E-mail
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Friday, 01 November 2013 00:00

The Christian Workers Union is in serious trouble. It has lost significant bargaining power now that it has been expelled by the National Trade Union Congress of Belize and the executive’s authority is being challenged by one of its more influential membership group.

On August 6th of this year the Waterfront Workers held a meeting with the President and Secretary General of the CWU, Antonio Gonzalez and James McFoy, in which they expressed their displeasure at how the executive has been representing them in negotiations with the Port of Belize Limited. The waterfront workers claim that Gonzalez and McFoy have been too soft in negotiations with management of the PBL and have not effectively championed their positions. The meeting with Gonzalez and McFoy did nothing to relieve their frustration with the executives of their union and after they discovered that the NTUCB was also unhappy with the conduct of the CWU’s executive the waterfront workers called for their resignation by Friday, August 16th. During that same time, the NTUCB announced that it had suspended the CWU indefinitely for not paying its affiliation fees and not attending important meetings.

Gonzalez and McFoy chose not to yield to the resignation request but those charges by their members and the umbrella organization forced the executives to call an emergency meeting on Monday, August 19th. The meeting was attended by representatives of almost all membership groups. At the end of that meeting, Gonzalez addressed the media saying, “There will be an AGM-what we call a Convention- on the 26th of October. There will be financial audited statements so that it can be taken up to the convention.” He also said, “I will not be seeking any re-election.” The waterfront workers were not thrilled about the decision to extend the executive’s tenure but they rested in the assurance that an AGM would be held on October 26th. 

As the members of the CWU were preparing for their Annual General Meeting and identifying nominees for election on October 26th, the executive called an emergency meeting one week before. On October 18th an assembly of the union’s membership groups was held in Belmopan City and they voted 13-2 in favour of postponing the AGM until February of 2014, which is a date closer to what Gonzalez had wanted all along. The NTUCB and the waterfront workers were not happy with the decision because they point to the commitment on August 19th that an AGM would be held on October 26th. The NTUCB sent out a release which stated, “A word of caution to the bargaining units of the CWU - be forewarned, that since the existing “executives” has not lived up to its legal obligations, under Chapter 304 of the laws of Belize, you run the risk of being decertified should you proceed with endorsing this evolving CWU proposal.”

The waterfront workers and other supporters chose to move forward with a general congress. They called on members of the CWU to attend the congress which was supported by NTUCB. The executive of the CWU launched a campaign of its own in which it discouraged the members of the union from attending any “unauthorized meeting”. The meeting went on as plan on Saturday, October 26th, at the Bird’s Isle. For an election to be held there had to be two-thirds of the membership in attendance. Since there is no membership record available, the only individual who knows the exact number of members in the union is the General Secretary, James McFoy. According to him, the union has 700 members from 15 entities. Going on that number, they needed close to 470 members to show up on Saturday.

Organizers of the general congress did not get the turnout they were hoping for. It was not even close. The disappointing turnout forced Marvin Mora, 2nd Vice President of NTUCB, to say, “It is showing us that they are okay with whatever status quo is at your union’s management. For that reason the NTUCB can no longer continue to have the CWU as an affiliate because we have tried everything for years.” The NTUCB convened a special general assembly on Monday, October 28th, where they decided to expel the Christian Workers Union. The expulsion significantly hurts the union’s bargaining power since the CWU has not shown the ability to move in any significant number during times of grievance. The strength of a union is based on numbers and the thousands from the NTUCB no longer stand behind the Christian Workers Union.