Late on Monday evening there was a briefing of the press regarding the latest in the ongoing dispute between First Caribbean International Bank (FCIB) and the Christian Workers’ Union (CWU) on behalf of the bank’s soon-to-be former workers, who are agitating for their exit package after being told they cannot stay on with FCIB successor Heritage Bank. From the talk of possible strike action and bitter lashing out at the Government of Belize and Prime Minister Dean Barrow last week, things appear more conciliatory now that negotiations are underway. We hear more from CWU President Audrey Matura-Shepherd.
Audrey Matura-Shepherd, President CWU: This point what I think would be proper to say is that we had a very productive three
hours meeting. The labor commissioner severed as a mediator, I would say. We ironed out certain details and the good news is that now we are preparing to start negotiations. I think that we won’t go into discussion of details, what our differences are but rather than we’ve actually plotted a way forward and that we’re looking forward to genuine good faith negotiations. Especially since our employees are still adamant about knowing where they stand.
Reporter: Now with the passage of the vesting act recently, and the PM mentioning that it won’t be signed until you guys have ironed out the details so to speak. Where does the union stand in regards to that? In light of today.
Audrey Matura-Shepherd, President CWU: Let me tell you for us at the level of the union is very simple. Only what is in black and white matters. If the Prime Minister genuinely wanted that to be part of the law he could have amended it then and there before he sends it to the Senate and it would have been then part of the legislation of the vesting act that he now puts an additional condition that nothing can be done until the interest of the employees are taken care of. He did not do that, so I am glad that he said it as a large indication but it is not a promise and sometime promises are just for fools.
The Union is preparing to go back to its members to inform of the compromise reached. Matura-Shepherd points out that these employees also have personal and financial considerations and this is being ignored in the back-and-forth. She also points out that the Union will limit its comments as negotiations progress at the behest of employees. Labour Commissioner Ivan Williams discusses the plans moving forward.
Ivan Williams, Labour Commissioner: It was a discussion where we tried to get from them what their issues are in relation to where they are in the discussions they have been having in regards to, what I understand, the bank intent to sell its assets and how that will affect the employees in relation to the contract that exist, the employment relation that exists between the bank and its employees. We were able to get them too, because they were having difficulties agreeing first to meet and secondly to discuss the way forward, so today we were happy in which there was an amicable meeting in which they have agreed to 2 dates. The 25th of September and the 5th of October, where they gonna sit and meet and discuss issues of common interest in terms of the, in one regard there is presently as we speak a proposal from two side. A proposal from the bank in terms of its, for what of a better word exit package coming from the union and redundancy terms and a redundancy package from the bank and so they have agreed to sit and discuss those two proposals, one a proposal and a counter proposal with a view to come to an amicable settlement with regards to what will happen to the employees.
Negotiations are to begin next Monday, September 28.