CWU attacks Social Security for disingenuity over workers’ pay

Payday for workers of the Social Security Board (SSB) is this coming Friday, January 30, but by the standards of the institution that is four days late. Only a handful of the 300 employees have been paid – those attached to CIBC First Caribbean Bank.

The issue is the SSB’s plan to implement a transitional increment en route to a full increment system, to replace the bonus system employed by the organization. The Christian Workers’ Union (CWU), which represents non-management employees of the SSB, has complained that it and its workers have not been fully consulted and the SSB’s move is unilateral.

At a press briefing today, CWU President Audrey Matura-Shepherd, explained how the delay and the employers’ decision hurt workers’ expectations.

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vlcsnap-2015-01-28-05h04m26s203Audrey Matura-Shepherd – President, Christian Workers’ Union

“How are the staff members now being affected? Unfortunately, because the management went ahead and prematurely pay out this transitional increment, and they now realize that they have erred, instead of making the salaries of everyone just go through, and the following pay period deduct it. What they did, there were some salaries that have already been posted, those through First Caribbean Bank, that they could not withdraw. So they told those employees that next period they would withdraw it, but then they went ahead and those who had not been fully posted, they withdrew and withheld their salaries for $62 or $98,  they withheld people salary, and said to them, ‘We have to [take] it back because of your union.’ 

So as to deflect from their wrongdoing, there saying basically to employees, ‘You’re not getting paid because of the union,’ and that is very, very unfair and unjust, and disingenuous.”

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The Union met with members of the Belize City branch over the weekend, and has yet to take a full position on whether to accept the increment proposed. But for Audrey Matura-Shepherd, it goes further than that, as she reiterated the Union’s view on its partnership with SSB, and its expectations for taking care of the employees, union or non-union. She also discusses other routes the SSB could have taken.

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Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“I think dialogue and communication is very important.  We are available and open for that meeting to see how we move ahead, because our mandate from our employees [is] that we want the increment system. 

The second thing is to say to them, ‘Post the salaries, post haste.’  It is unjust that employees, be they members of the union or not, should suffer the injustice of not getting their salary, per an agreement with Social Security Board that was made since last year, where they sent out a correspondence indicating all pay periods and pay dates, and we will produce that letter where they say to us, for 2015 these are the dates you’ll get paid. They violated that, on their own again. 

To them we will also say, that whatever penalties our members suffer as a result of a late payment with bank charges or anything, we will expect you to compensate them.

I think, as an act of good faith, what the management could have done is to allow the salaries to go through, and like what happened with those employees whose salary had already gone through to CIBC, thay could have been sent a letter saying, ‘We overpaid you by 62 or 98 dollars, and the next pay period we will be deducting it.’ “

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The Union received no response to either of its letters addressing the issue to SSB and Matura-Shepherd says workers have told her that the Board, in its own meetings, has claimed it will treat union and non-union workers differently, and that they have the support of a majority of workers for the move. In addition, management-level employees received payments reflecting their performance for 2014 which should have also been afforded to the workers. Audrey Matura-Shepherd also discussed a planned amendment to the in-house handbook regarding whistle-blowing, about which the Union was again not consulted.

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Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“It says, ‘Acknowledging receipt of the Code of Values, Ethics and Professional Conduct.’  That’s the heading, but the body says, ‘I have received a copy of the Social Security Board’s Code of Values, Ethics, and Professional Conduct

specifying policies, practice and regulation which I agree to observe and follow during my employment with Social Security Board. I understand that it is my responsibility to be familiar with its contents, and to ask questions on any matters I don’t understand.  Since information in this handbook is necessarily subject to change as situations warrant, it is understood that subsequent changes in the handbook may supersede, revise, or eliminate one or more of the policies in this handbook.  These changes will be communicated to me by me supervisor, manager, or through official notices.  I accept responsibility for keeping informed of these changes as communicated.’

This is the problem we’re having, unilateral decisions contrary to our CBA,”

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The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the SSB and CWU is expected to be shortly re-negotiated.
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