The Christian Workers’ Union (CWU) is to blame for the delay in compensating terminated employees of First Caribbean International Bank, Prime Minister Dean Barrow said today, accusing the leadership of the Union of being “dense and dishonest” by suggesting that the rush to pass the Vesting Act was cover to cheat employees of their packages. The Act, according to the Minister of Finance, is a regular feature of transfers of assets between bank operations, such as Belize Bank and Royal Bank of Canada, the Belize branch of Scotia Bank and even the original Barclays Bank to First Caribbean. He attempted to clear up some of the confusion in response to a question from PLUS News.
Hon. Dean Barrow: What government is doing in passing the vesting act is to facilitate the transfer of the assets. If we didn’t do this, and there’s precedence when AshCorft bought Royal Bank of Canada, when FCIB bought Barklay’s Bank, when ScotiaBelize bought out Scotia Bank. On each occasion government and there were different administrations on each of those occasions passed a vesting act. If you don’t do that, the transfer of the securities would respect to every single mortgage will have to laboriously processed at the registry one by one. So all we’re doing is facilitating this process so that they are no slippages. To make the point, if we even decided no, we’re not going to pass any vesting act, the deal would still got through, except that there would have to be this individual processing of the security transfer. Our obligation is first and foremost to the depositors, to the customers of FCIB. They would have been in the soup in a pretty pickle if the FCIB had simple said, you know what, we’re closing down. We’ll give you back your deposits, find somewhere to put those deposits.
The Act’s passage in the National Assembly is not the end of the tale; as Minister of Finance, only the Prime Minister can put that Act into force, and then only when certain actions are completed. Meanwhile, negotiations continue on the Collective Bargaining Agreement and those, P.M. Barrow said, may well conclude before the sale to Heritage Bank is completed.
Hon. Dean Barrow: So, this does not in any way prejudice the negotiations between the FCIB and the staff. This is not as been suggested, government putting an end to a process which will then deprive them of the opportunity to continue their negotiations. In talking to both the Manager of Heritage, Mr. Duncan whose here, as the purchaser, and the manager of FCIB as the seller. The anticipation is that the transfer of systems, all that needs to be done is not likely to be concluded before the end of the year. So there is no question of the act coming into force certainly before all those matters have in fact been tied up.
Later the Prime Minister said he could not intervene in the so-called “sickout” organized by workers which meant that Government employees have yet to be paid through their FCIB accounts in Belmopan.