A number of stevedores are up in arms against the leadership of their union, the Christian Workers Union (CWU), and have called on its President, Antonio Gonzalez and General Secretary James McFoy, to step down by Friday.
Gonzalez, it appears, has lost the confidence of the roughly 200 stevedores that the CWU represents. In addition to the stevedores, other groups of workers that are also represented by the CWU have joined in the call for their resignation.
Gonzalez, after many attempts throughout this week by the media to contact him, answered his cell phone and the Reporter asked him, “What is your reaction to the stevedores calling for your resignation by tomorrow Friday?”
Gonzalez replied: “With all due respect, we don’t have any comments to make. When it’s time to comment, I will call you personally. But it won’t be tomorrow.”
The stevedores want Gonzalez and McFoy to resign, because they are of the view that they have failed them in the collective bargaining negotiations with the Port of Belize Limited.
They also claim that Gonzalez and McFoy have been lax in representing their overall interest.
Under Gonzalez and McFoy leadership the CWU has been suspended from the National Trade Union Congress of Belize, for not paying the prescribed fees to the umbrella organization.
Also on Thursday evening, the stevedores were joined at a meeting at the Bishop Sylvester Memorial Center by workers from the Belize Electricity Limited, the Belize Central Bank, the Belize Social Security Board and others, who are also represented by the CWU.
Seated at the head table were three stevedores, Leopold Smart, Deon Pitta and Raymond Rivers.
With around 30 persons attending the meeting, the mood was one of solidarity with the stevedores, as the idea of constitutionally removing Gonzalez and McFoy was discussed.
Pitta told the gathering that accountability and transparency build trust.
“This man messed up. This man sell we out,” Smart declared.
Rivers read a letter that Gonzalez sent to the stevedores, after they had written to him, giving him the deadline of Thursday, August 15 to step down.
Gonzalez, it appears, had initially agreed that he would step down, but he seems to have changed his mind and wrote, saying that he would have the financial statements, which is one of the burning issues, in two months.
His letter promised a general meeting for March 2014, but he said that he would not be seeking re-election.
Gonzalez’s letter promised that by next month, the CWU will resume its payment to the NTUCB to address the issue of its suspension. And they will resume attending NTUCB meetings.
Pitta and Rivers obtained legal advice and responded to Gonzalez’s letter in four points.
On the issue of the financial statements being ready in four months, the stevedores told Gonzalez that he failed to mention what periods the financial statements would cover.
Their second point told Gonzalez that March 2014 is too long to hold a union convention.
The stevedores third point told Gonzalez that his executive committee lacked legitimacy and can be challenged in court.
He was put on notice that hereafter, he has no authority to spend union funds.
They said that they would appoint their own negotiating team, immediately after the executive committee steps down on Thursday.
“There will be no further negotiation with the stevedores and the Port of Belize until you and your executive committee resign. We reiterate your illegal executive committee and you have until midday, Friday, August 15 to resign or face the consequences.”