The members of the House of representatives met in Belmopan for a special sitting at the National Assembly to debate and the Bank Undertaking Vesting Bill 2015, which will provide for the vesting in Heritage Bank Limited of the business in Belize of First Caribbean International (Barbados) Limited. In the early part of August earlier this year, that Heritage bank would be buying out the operations and assets of First Caribbean International in Belize. The merging bode ill news for the employees of First Caribbean, which the Union said would translate into some 60 employees left without employment. This was the basis of the opposition’s argument today during the debate of the bill. The leader of the Opposition opened the debate by first acknowledging that they understand that this is a private transaction and as such, they would have had no problem giving their support for the bill. But, he says they cannot, given the circumstance of the employees, who have essentially been left in the limbo.
Hon. Francis Fonseca; Leader of the Opposition: They wrote to the Governor of the Central Bank, Mr. Speaker. Again, I have a copy of that letter and essentially, the Governor of the Central Bank wrote back, and I am paraphrasing his response. To say, really the truth is we have no obligation to the workers of First Caribbean International Bank, no advice, no guidance, no effort to be helpful. Just a basic, standard letter. We really have nothing to do with you. You are essentially on your own. Paddle your own canoe. So all of these things, Mr. Speaker, all to no avail. Letters copied to the Prime Minister, letters to the Governor of the Central Bank. Letters to the Labor Commissioner, and really no positive response at all, which we find to be very shameful.
Hon. Michael Finnegan: When Mr. First Caribbean done sell out to Mr. Heritage and Mr. Heritage takes over Mr. First Caribbean, and when he looks on his staff members, he says all deh staff ya I nuh want. That dah Mr. Heritage business. That nuh have no business to do with the Dean Barrow Administration. Dan uh we. We nuh di tek weh no job from nobody. Mr. First Caribbean sell out to Mr. Heritage. When Mr. Heritage buys and takes over, Mr. Heritage says I nuh want all those workers. I will cut down on the staff weh I got ya. So how can you turn around and blame the Barrow administration because a private transaction gone on and the final person in the transaction says all deh employees ya, I nuh want deh. I will take someand I will get rid of some. How we get eena that? How you wah blame we fi that?
Hon. Said Musa: You see, the very fact that you posed that question ,Mr. Speaker. He is asking how do you protect the staff? You protect them by meeting with the people and discussing with the principals involved to ensure that their interests are protected, to ensure that they get their pension rights, to ensure that they get all their benefits, to ensure that when , for instance, that when you have a health insurance group scheme, when should they put in their claims, when will it stop, when will be the appointed date. They need to know all these things, man. These people are Belizeans, you know. We are talking about Belizean workers. They have a right to be involved.
Hon. Dean Barrow:If we don’t pass the vesting bill, that makes no difference because the purpose of the vesting bill is really to make sure that the laborious process of registering the transfer of each individual mortgage and other securities from FCIB to Heritage is avoided. We are just facilitating so they can do it in one fell swoop, making sure that we don’t lose any off the tax that arises otneh consequence of those transfers. So if we decided, no, we nuh wah pass the vesting bill, how does that help the workers?