Union members and supporters gathered in Belmopan this morning to show solidarity for the Christian Workers Union (CWU) in their plight with the Port of Belize Limited. Cayo Correspondent Fem Cruz was in front of the Labour Department where he spoke with the several union members and leaders including the President of the BNTU Belmopan Branch, Curlan Galvez.
Curlan Galvez, President, BNTU Belmopan Branch: “Today we are out here in support of the CWU union. You know that they’re being affected heavily in the situation in Belize City and so they staged a protest and the other unions decide to come and support them. We have PSU, the newly formed UB Union, ourselves BNTU we are out here to support because at the end of the day today for them tomorrow for us. And you know for many years now the Labor Department haven’t been doing their job, people are suffering because of the Labor Department they way how they do things so when it’s time for people to collect their money or when it’s time for people to lose their job then they don’t really have their records together and things like that so at the end of the day they’re affecting the poor people so the poor people will continue to get poor because this are not getting better for us; so that is why we are out here to support because today for you tomorrow for us.”
Fem Cruz, Cayo Correspondent: Gerald Henry the President of the PSU also spoke to Love News why they are out here today.
Gerald Henry, President, Public Service Union: “We are out here today to support the Christian Workers Union and the newly formed University of Belize Faculty and Staff Union. As you may know the Labor Department they had some issues with the Labor Department in particular the newly formed University of Belize Faculty and Staff Union and the NTUCB at its last meeting decided that we needed to take some action against the Labor Department in order to have them basically do their jobs and so today is the day that was decided on that we should come out here and picket the Labor Department. In Belize City there is a similar event going on however it is being done at the Port of Belize instead of the Labor Department in Belize City. The NTUCB as you know is the umbrella organization for unions in Belize and when they made the call out PSU being one of the prominent members of the NTUCB certainly had to lend our support to this cause. So the whole idea right now is that the unions must be together as one because today it is the Christian Workers Union and University of Belize Faculty and Staff Union tomorrow it could very well be the Public Service Union and all of our members and public officers.”
Despite being shot at with rubber bulles and being tear-gassed, the Christian Workers Union (CWU) were back in full swing today in Belize City, continuing their protest. They were not alone, however, as they were backed up by a plethora of unions. Representatives from all the unions under the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB) were present, including president Marvin Mora. Initially, the group had planned to move the protest to the Labour Office but at the last minute they remained at the Port. Members of the Belize National Teachers Union (BNTU) were present in their signature green shirts including President Elena Smith.
Marvin Mora, President, National Trade Union Congress of Belize: “We believe that these brothers and sisters here need the support and they need to understand that they are not alone in this war. It is like I said for the NTUCB not only unfortunate but it’s also really heart wrenching to see our brothers and sisters in this situation. As you are aware yesterday meanwhile the workers were here protesting as is their right to under our constitution and under the labor laws of Belize they’re out here showing solidarity with each other along with other members of the community and at the same time you have the Port of Belize terminating thirty six of them via text messages that adds insult to injury brother and I guess you can understand the frustration and the raw emotions that our people are experiencing at this moment.”
Elena Smith, President, Belize Teachers Union: “As a union we believe in solidarity and so solidarity simply means that you are showing support, you are there with the people who are hurting because when your turn comes you expect to have solidarity as well. So from our end as BNTU we are fully supporting the persons here at the port. Really and truly it was quite disturbing disgusting if you will to see that our colleagues were peacefully demonstrating, protesting for their rights and to have the officers come out and behave in that manner as I said it was really uncalled for and those in authority – I heard the AG and I heard the commissioner they need to get to the bottom of it. Somebody did not do what they were told to do or somebody isn’t telling the truth but something happened and it went terribly wrong.”
The CWU’s President Evan “Mose” Hyde has been at the forefront of the issue from the get-go. At one point he had called out his union brothers and sisters for not standing with him on the issue at the Port. Today, however, he has expressed his gratitude for the solidarity shown in the past few days.
Mose Hyde, President, Christian Workers Union: “We mean everything because you know the part of this struggle is to deal with the real life impact of this crisis and men and women who are part of the staff especially those who have been identified as the ones to be declared redundant and everything has been very very impactful on them and so in the face of all of that to see this kind of outpouring of support I could see it in their face what it means to them and because I can see that it gives them a lift then that gives you a sense of energy. Like really it’s a big thing and we have to say to all of the members that supported today and showed their face and solidarity in the immediate aftermath of what transpired yesterday rather than cowering away, rather than just retreating to just writing a comment on Facebook these folks came down to the front line and have stood with them and that is such a boost and such a lift to them and so it’s a great thing.”
Today’s protests went without incident.