Posted: Wednesday, January 21, 2015. 7:56 pm CST.
Wednesday, January 21, 2015. AARON HUMES Reporting: In December of 2013 president of the Christian Workers’ Union (CWU) Antonio Gonzalez and general secretary James McFoy stood down after calls by workers to answer to charges of poor performance and mismanagement in their time on the job.
The Union’s membership elected a new executive headed by Audrey Matura-Shepherd, a newly-minted attorney who came to the post with no labour experience.
But what a difference a year makes, as the Union has turned around its performance and collected several victories on behalf of its membership, which has swelled to over 1,000 in various establishments around the country from Orange Walk to Stann Creek.
The CWU managed the successful transitions of security officers out of the employ of the Belize City Council to a private entity, and that of former employees with Belize Maintenance Limited (BML) into the Council respectively.
At a press briefing called today to report on the first year of the executive Matura-Shepherd reported that the Union is either close to or in the process of negotiating collective bargaining agreements with the many organizations tied to the CWU, from Social Security to the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers Association (BSCFA); because of her work with the BSCFA’s staff employees, she noted, she cannot accept any post with the BSCFA itself and denied reports of being asked to be their attorney; she does represent Lucilo Teck in his ongoing suit against sugar authorities.
The Union is now up to date with its dues to the NTUCB and has paid off utility bills and other necessities related to their office.
A familiar face has joined the Union as its Labour Relations Officer, tasked with being the liaison between the CWU executive and the various bargaining units of the Union.
He is former civil servant Earl Jones, who committed to looking out for the interests of the Union’s members.
Union members will be asked at the Annual General Meeting on February 28 to approve a new constitution for the Union as well as a scheme for payment of dues which ranges widely from unit to unit.
The monies would be used for administration as well as to open a fund to handle arrangements for benefits for employees.
With regard to one of the biggest hurdles the CWU still has to clear – the long-standing dispute between stevedores and the Port of Belize Limited – Matura-Shepherd she wanted an opportunity to consult with stevedores and acquaint herself fully with her duties before jumping into negotiations. She now says she is ready to lead those negotiations.
Trustee for the Union and leading stevedore Dion Pitter says workers are now reviewing proposals for the CBA, which they directly had a hand in creating and believes the upheaval that ousted Gonzalez and ex-general secretary James McFoy helped workers understand their rights and made them better able to participate in the current process.
Union General Secretary Floyd Neal says a variety of documents are being used to fashion the proposals made by the workers.
The CWU is also busy fashioning a full Collective Bargaining Agreement for all Belize City Council employees which is expected to be completed before the municipal elections due in March – a response is sought from Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley.
The Belmopan City Council is expected to conclude its negotiations as well before March of this year.
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