The FCIB Belize Branch Vesting Bill, 2015 that provides for the vesting of assets in Heritage Bank of the business in Belize FCIB limited, was debated by the House of Representatives yesterday. Today it moved to the Senate. Senator Mark Lizarraga, as the senator for the private sector, opened the discussion by saying that it is expected that the employers will act in good faith as to ensure the needs of the employees of FCIB, affected by the transfer of assets from FCIB to Heritag.
Senator Lizaraga: Mr President as the employer’s representatives of the ILO in Belize, we have every expectation that the employees will receive al
that is due to them under any existing law or agreement. We continue to urge all the parties involved to continue to dialogue and to seek peaceful, mutually agreed upon and speedy resolution to this matter. We encourage the government and the minister of labour, and the ministry of labour to become involved if needed or asked to do so. Again as the employer’s representatives for the ILO in Belize, we have been reassured by the employer by this instance Mr. President that they will continue to be mindful of the needs for all concerned and involved in this process and that they will observe at all times the highest levels of professionalism as they work to ensure a seamless and orderly transition of business to Heritage.
Senator Lisa Shoman: It is that the Prime Minister is assuring that he will not bring it into effect, kinda like the 13th senator bill, until such time as sometime towards the end of the year. It would have been better if the proviso had been amended to include that no such day shall be appointed until such time as the concerns of the workers of FCIB are dealt with in a proper and adequate manner. That language is not in there.
Senator Patrick Andrews: And I think that most of the workers who for First Caribbean bank who have still not reported to work today, and anyone who might question that statement could kindly take a walk right down this stairs over to the First Caribbean Bank across from here and would realize that many of the workers have not reported to work today because, like me, they have not been given any official guarantee by their government, or by their Prime Minister except for words that have been uttered in this house which I believe they rightfully question or distrust any words that might be a comfort to these over 60 workers who have everything put on the line
The Senator Godwin Hulse expressed his remarks on the vesting bill reiterating that the Government is in consultation with the Employers to ensure that the employees’ rights are honoured. He spoke in his capacity as Senator for Government Business and the Minister of Labour.
Senator Godwin Hulse: Under subsection 4 it says the Minister may by written order, prior to the change of name or sale or transfer or closure of the enterprise request the employer to provide financial security in the amounts he sees fit to satisfy the existing claims for workers, and the employer shall comply with such order within 1 month from the date of receipt of the minister’s order. It goes on to say the financial security made under this order, subsection 3, shall be made with commissioner in an account set up for this purpose, and where an employer fails to comply with the order under subsection the commissioner shall recover the amounts due in astute. It then goes on to say notwithstanding this, all of this, a new employer, in this case would be Heritage planning to take over an employment relationship from the current employer may agree with the current employer and the workers together to take over all or part of the claims of the workers concerning the previous employment relationship. So there’s clear provisions in the law Mr. President and the Prime Minister is cognisant of this and that is why in the bill it says at the appointed time, because he is in consultation to ensure that all of this takes place. That is a law written, proposed and passed by this government. So it does take into considerations the issues affecting workers.
One Senator who had a special angle in this discussion is the Senator for the Unions and Civil Service. However, less than two weeks ago, the National Trade Union Congress of Belize (NTUCB), the umbrella union of Belize divorced itself from Senator Davis’s representation. Nevertheless he spoke during the debate on the vesting bill saying the Prime Minister must now be held accountable.
Senator Ray Davis: To my mind, we now have to hold the Prime Minister accountable for translating his opinion, probably that of my colleagues in the private sector into palpable support for workers. We call on him to make sure that, in accenting to this bill, it is only after consultations with the representatives of the workers. We live in a country where we choose who we want to represent us and there are always compelling reasons why workers choose the leadership that they choose, some people might not agree with capacities etc, but it is still the workers choice. In negotiating the exit package, if everything I’m hearing is true, this should not be an onerous exercise, because as I understand it, that process has already started with the management level, and I understand that the management level might be getting a decent package, we just now need for the same consultation to try to further down so that everybody can have a leave with the same notion. As a leader of government business of course I believe your department has a crucial role to play here to ensure that the palpable support of the Prime Minister is translated into help from your department in terms of the activities of the labour commissioner in making sure that fair honest negotiations ensue.
The Senator representing the churches, Senator Noel Leslie, was a no show at the Senate meeting today, while Senator Davis, stepped out before the division of vote was called. The result of the votes therefore, were as follows: six in favour, four against and two abstentions.