Stevedores want General Assembly now, not next February, to oust Gonzalez and McFoy
Spokespersons for the stevedores—the most vocal faction of the Christian Workers Union (CWU)—are insisting that a General Assembly planned for this Saturday, October 26, to eject president Antonio Gonzalez and general secretary James McFoy, must proceed, notwithstanding a decision by the union’s executive last Friday that the meeting—years overdue—should be postponed until next February.
Deon “Pitta” Pitter told Amandala that there has been “game playing.” He alleged that Gonzalez has secretly convinced the union liaisons from entities which the union represents—which include workers of Social Security Board, the Central Bank of Belize, the Institute of Creative Arts, the Statistical Institute of Belize and the Belmopan City Council—to keep him as president, despite serious issues over the state of the union’s finances.
Speaking with Amandala this morning, Gonzalez roundly denied the allegation. He told us that union members decided via vote while he and McFoy were absent from the meeting.
“It is time for a renewed CWU,” Gonzalez said.
However, Pitter—who said that there has been no financial accountability for at least the past 10 years—is not convinced that this revitalization can happen under the leadership of Gonzalez.
Whereas 11 of 14 executive members have voted to defer the General Assembly, the stevedores are still urging members to come out to vote on Saturday.
“It is the members who have the power. The Constitution is for all CWU members,” Pitter said.
The stevedores say that they have nominated former Belize Communication Workers’ union veterans, Dale Trujeque, one of their advisors, and Nelson Young for the posts of president and vice president, respectively.
However, Amandala was today provided with a press statement by the CWU which claims that an interim committee was appointed last Friday “to oversee the financial and administrative affairs of the Union until a congress is held.”
McFoy said that the current leadership of the CWU views the upcoming meeting as “illegal.” Both he and Gonzalez insist on the need for a quorum of two-thirds of 700 members – which would be about 470 persons, but McFoy said that that quorum’s decision can only be valid if the meeting had, first, been legally called by the CWU executive.
Amandala recalled that back in August, Gonzalez and Pitter shook hands publicly after a meeting at the Labor Department in Belize City, after which they made a joint statement announcing an impeding audit and a General Assembly set for this Saturday.
“Yes, but that has been changed. Like everything, you could change things,” said Gonzalez this morning.
Gonzalez and McFoy, who were being pressured by the stevedores to resign by August, had also agreed that they would not seek re-election this weekend.
We asked: “So come Monday, you two aren’t going anywhere?”
“Adele, I don’t like to predict things!” he responded.
McFoy said that the police, who are concerned, called him late last night.
“The police asked for a meeting to see what role they can play in the event that on Monday, they [the stevedores or their representatives] want to walk in here,” McFoy told us.
“We have in-house fighting going on, which is very sad. There is absolutely no money there – absolutely none! We need to get our office up back and running, so it’s very critical for us as a union to move forward, but to move forward strong…” said CWU shop steward for the Central Bank of Belize, Basil Brannon.
Brannon told us that keeping Gonzalez on is really his idea – which he proposed to Gonzalez when they met recently to talk about staff pension issues.
“I was a big part of that. I will take responsibility for that…” he said.
When we asked him who else shares responsibility, he then said that he takes “sole responsibility” for suggesting that Gonzalez should be kept on.
According to Brannon, Gonzalez complained of being overworked, since he has to deal with office matters as well as collective bargaining negotiations. Gonzalez told us today that there are six negotiations pending.
Brannon said that the allegation that Gonzalez had been going around, rallying members to stay on as president, “is so far from the truth…”
“We are not happy with Mister Gonz, you know, I need to make that clear! We are not happy with him. But we are not making the same mistake that we made,” he told us.
When we visited Brannon this morning at the Central Bank of Belize, we saw flyers posted at one of the front desks, inviting Central Bank members of the CWU to a convention to elect new membership, 9:30 a.m. this Saturday at Bird’s Isle. The flyer also said that the NTUCB has a team who will be assisting and overseeing the election.
When we contacted the NTUCB’s office this afternoon, a spokesperson told us that some sister unions have been assisting the stevedores; however, a collective NTUCB position won’t be formalized until after they meet tonight.
Trujeque told us Tuesday: “This is mental slavery. These shop stewards have their members in mental slavery and Gonz have the shop stewards in worst slavery…”
He pointed to a claim from one of the union reps which said that Gonzalez has represented them (the members) well during negotiations, and since he has knowledge and expertise, they are willing to support him until February 2014.
Raymond Rivers, CWU shop steward for the stevedores, said: “How can they throw a million dollars under the rug and tell me and Pitter to say nothing?”