Time is winding down on the settlement of assets between CIBC First Caribbean International Bank and Heritage Bank of Belize Limited, and the workers of the former are yet to negotiate their exit packages as they will not be retained by the new owners. First Caribbean and the Christian Workers’ Union (CWU) have traded allegations back and forth as to who is responsible but the bottom line is these workers will be
out of a job. To remind the public and the negotiators of the human face of this conflict, the workers, supported by the CWU, took to the streets this morning joined by members of Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action. Derick Perera, the chief union representative for the Bank’s union members, told PLUS News that while customers are being inconvenienced, workers are essentially down and out as a result of the foot dragging over this issue.
Derick Perera, Chief Union Representative, FCIB: We would like to apologize to our customers for the fact that we are searching for and know that they will be experiencing some interruption of services. However, we as members deem that this is necessary for us to show the bank that we are united. That we are fighting for what we believe in.
Reporter: Tell us what is the extent of the action that you’re taking here today in terms of who all is represented and who all is on board with you, speaking about the different branches country wide.
Derick Perera, Chief Union Representative, FCIB: Well we have a representation from all branches. All of the unionized employees have not went to work today. We have people here from Belmopan, Dangriga,. We stand united. We have representations so everyone is along with us.
Perera said workers still don’t know how they will pay their bills and mortgages with the Bank. According to COLA president Geovannie Brackett, who used to work at the Bank, the delay may be due to the personal relationship between the Government and CWU president and outspoken critic Audrey Matura-Shepherd, who was not to be seen this morning.
Geovannie Brackett, President COLA: COLA is here this morning to support the workers of the First Caribbean Bank. The main reason why we’re out here is because we feel it’s our duty to show solidarity with these workers. Every workers who have worked professionally…………….. from the commissioner of the labour department . I think they are playing games with these workers. We at COLA don’t feel satisfied that the best has been done to ensure that these workers get the best settlement. We believe that the government an Audrey, they’re riff raff, or the personal beef or vendetta, I don’t know individuals, whatever the case is what the government feels towards Audrey and now these workers. The members of her union, not only the First Caribbean Bank, the Social Security, I think they’re being affected. And so with the First Caribbean Bank, being a former employee here, I shared office with some of these colleagues here and some of them are my friends. I even know the management. I know Mr. Duncan who use to be the manager there and I think that they just need to have a heart to heart and we are prepared to show support today, tomorrow, or whatever the plan is to try and bring management and government to the table.
And while Matura-Shepherd was not present, executive member Dion Pitter, whose stevedores are also locked in negotiation with the Port of Belize, said on her behalf that this is a time for labour uprising and solidarity.
Dion Pitter, Executive Member, CWU: Well fu we logo da if you touch one you haftu touch all. We have to start engage in each and every one of our members, be it from BTL or WASA or Teacher’s Union, we haftu engage because all a we da union members. What I di learn from this process is we can’t left we CBA mek it turn dust, because the CBA very important between the members and the managers. The CBA da our guidance, and we have to engage more, and that wah mek we stronger. So I wah support any union weh come out because all what we di demonstrate fah da fu deal with the wages better. That da all. SO I wah come and support any organization weh into that movement.
A release from the Union this evening says this latest action, quote, “is expected to continue tomorrow Friday, 30 October, 2015 or until the Bank submits proposals that are respectable and show genuine movement towards a compromise for the employees. The Bank’s approach towards the proposals of the workers has been to either make no genuine efforts to counter-offers and remains repetitive in their response, refusing to make any attempt to reach compromise. The disrespect to the negotiations of the workers has been so insulting that there are instances when not even a counter-proposal is made and the Bank has shown itself to be unprepared to address the request of the workers. As the year comes closer to an end the workers are in limbo as to where they stand because to date the Bank has refused to state an exit date, holding on to that information and creating great uncertainty for the workers. Workers who are being proactive and seeking new jobs to ensure they do not remain in the ranks of the unemployed are prejudiced as they are asked to resign and not be considered redundant, because the Bank claims it has not given an exit date and until it provides such date the redundancy laws does not