The First Caribbean International Bank vesting bill went to the house yesterday to facilitate the transfer of banking assets from FCIB to Heritage Bank. The vesting Bill was presented in the senate today and similar to the point raised by the Opposition yesterday, some senators expressed concern for the 60 employees of FCIB who will be without a job and the negotiation of the employees exit packages which is yet to conclude. When he addressed the issue yesterday after receiving several critiques from the Opposition, Prime Minister Dean Barrow stated that he has received assurance from Glen Smith, the current country manager for FICB, that the company will offer the workers a far better term of an exit package than what the labor act demands as a bare minimum.
The Christian Workers Union, who represent the 60 employees have categorically stated that the Prime Minister is acting in bad faith and has practically betrayed the FCIB workers for taking the vesting bill to the house before the negotiations of an exit package have concluded.
On Monday during a press conference held in Belize City the P.M was questioned about the FCIB issue and he lashed out at the President of the CWU, Audrey Matura Shepherd. He described her leadership as dense and dishonest. Yesterday the P.M also lashed out at Matura Shepherd and this time he held back no punches.
With so much criticism lunched on her person it was no surprise when Matura Shepherd called a press conference yesterday afternoon and responded to the Prime Minister. As expected she gave him a tongue lashing.
Audrey Matura Shepherd- CWU, President
“We have copies of letters again to prove that the Prime Minister has once again been misinformed and by extension of him going only by heir misinformation has mislead this country. One of the questions that the workers say that it's unfair that the Prime Minister and those who spew his propaganda has been pushing is that CWU has failed FCIB workers. To that, the answer I am asked to give is and the answer to which I believe is that the government is the one that has failed the workers, because he never sat down to discuss with us or to hear our side of the story. The Prime Minister failed to tell this nation that on Monday August 31st while he was walking into the Biltmore Plaza Hotel to hold a press conference - while he was walking into that hotel, two female members of this union who are employees of FCIB approached him personally and hand delivered a letter to him that is signed by no other than the chief of steward of the union. We elected to go that way because the union members were concerned that he always has a personal attack and gripe against their president. So they ask the chief of steward to sign the letter so that the Prime Minister would have no excuse why not to answer them. They knew that he received it that day. That letter was dated August 28, they delivered it on that Monday and to date the Prime Minister has not answered them. In that letter they outlined what was the plight, what was their concern and they were pleading to him to assist them. The workers wish for me to convey that they are most disappointed with his approached. They had expected better and they want to remind him that there are 60 workers, 60 head of household and 60 people who can vote and by extension influence those who vote that he should have kept that in mind when he decided to speak only with the local manager Glen Smith, a Jamaican, who won't even stay in this country once that bank is closed. If he had listen to this side of the story of the workers, he would have known that a year ago FCIB was not even interested in the talking about any negotiation of a CBA. How quickly he forgets that a year ago, especially in the latter part of 2014, the issue that occupied FCIB along with the union was the issue of Ms. Martinez and the speaking of the Garifuna language at the bank. He does not know the culture with the bank and clearly he does not know why the employees were skeptical to rush into a negotiation, having heard rumors of a sale and so they ask me to convey a message of something that happened why they believe that the bank has always acted in bad faith and by the government aligning themselves with the bank, clearly they are encouraging that bad faith."
According to Matura Shepherd, CWU and the FCIB employees they represent are asking that the Prime Minister that ensures niter ensures that FCIB complies with the legal provisions.
Audrey Matura Shepherd- CWU, President
"One of the key things that the government could do is definitely make sure that 1) the legal provisions are complied with. We have written the labor commissioner. What people don't know is that under the trade unions and employers organization, registration and recognition and status act, chapter 304, it is mandatory under section 43 that the employers should have sent a notice to the tripartite body. We have ask for proof that they have complied with the law. So we can start by asking the prime minister to make sure that FCIB has complied with every provision under the law. This section basically says that the employer who is going to sell a part of a business is or undertaking a company or other lease transfer or disposes of such part of the hold of the business undertaking a company shall, A) the purchaser, leasee shall be bound by all the pending litigation proceedings and anything before and any collective bargaining agreement entered into by the employer which is enforced shall continue. What people need to understand is that the 2013 CBA is still in enforced. There is a clause that says if we never ever sign another CBA, that remains the CBA up to that time that organization closes. So it's misleading what they are saying. There is a subsisting CBA. The reason they don't want to deal with a CBA is because they know the subsisting one exist. What they want to deal with is what is the exit package they'll get. What they will get when this business close down. What is something else the government can do? The government now has gone through the national assembly and rush through this law and its rush. Because in one day first, second, third reading, it goes to the senate tomorrow. The Prime Minister has not stated the commencement date. I think he needs to meet with the employees so that there be a discussion as to what that commencement date can possibly and plausibly be. 2) Once a legislation goes through the system, through parliament, it then needs to be sent over to the Governor General who will sign it and once the Governor General ascends to it, then it's gazetted. So before the Governor General signs it, there is still an opportunity for the government to ensure that the demands of the employees are met.”
The Christian Workers Union has sent out a press release on behalf of First Caribbean International Bank employees on the issue of the Vesting Act. In the release employees are asking that in solidarity with them, that all NTUCB units and officials vote NO and denounce the passing and coming into law of the Vesting Act, until FCIB in good faith meets and negotiate with the workers their Exit Package, just as they are doing for the Bank's management.
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