National Trade Union Congress of Belize Marks 57th Anniversary Amid Challenges and Calls for Action from Minister of Labor
Today, the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) celebrates its 57th anniversary, but they say it’s not much of a celebration as there is still much work to be done to improve unionism in Belize. To commemorate the milestone, the umbrella organization is launching its website and strategic plan on Friday. However, while it’s a celebratory time for the nation’s workers, NTUCB President, Luis Luke Martinez says there are several issues affecting unions in Belize. Martinez explained that it has been over a year since the Tripartite Body met and called on the Minister of Labor, Oscar Requena, to do his job.
Luis Luke Martinez, President, NTUCB: “It carried some key features and one of those, well, three of those features include one the certification of trade union, the collective bargaining process to ensure that that’s functioning and also to ensure that the ILO convention that have been ratified that we’re following those conventions. Now this Minister of Labor doesn’t – either he doesn’t understand this portfolio that falls under his many other portfolios and under that ministry because I keep on saying that Honorable Raquena has been doing an excellent job when it comes to rural development and the other rural transformation he has been doing an excellent job, but he is doing extremely poorly when it comes to labor. And I challenge you to reach out to him, to find out from him why is it that every time the National Trade Union Congress speaks publicly we don’t have much positive things to say about him when it comes to the industrial relations and labour related issues that falls under his remit as the minister responsible for labour. The Minister of Labour is aware that there hasn’t been a tripartite body meeting for a year. He is also aware that the chair for that body had indicated to them that she has resigned. She communicated to them via text and she communicated to them verbally and the ministry continues to wait for her to submit something in black and white. And while they are waiting for her to submit something in black and white, the workers in this country continue to be in limbo.”
President Martinez says he believes that the Minister of Labor Oscar Requena is intentionally dragging his feet in addressing issues brought to him by the NUTCB.
Luis Luke Martinez, President, NTUCB: “I want to go further to say that the actions of the minister when it comes to the ministry, when it comes to the tripartite body, is tantamount to union busting because if unions are not able to certify then tell me what’s going to happen to the unions ? The minister has relinquished his duties already. It’s not that we want him – we want him to do his work. And we want him to do his work diligently because he has relinquished his duties as the minister responsible for labor. Remember now that we had to fight with the ministry to appoint a Labor Commissioner because the ministry didn’t have a Labor Commissioner for a year and a half under this very same minister.”
The NUTCB was established in 1966. The Tripartite Body consists of nine members and the Labour Commissioner. Three members are representatives of Employers, three are representative of Workers and the other three are representatives of the Government. A key function of the Tripartite Body is that of working with all stakeholders to promote tripartism including the certification of Trade Unions, enforcement of Collective Bargaining Agreements and coordinating the recognition and enforcement of ratified ILO (International Labour Organization) Conventions.