CIBC First Caribbean Says Audrey Continues Attempt to Tarnish Bank’s Reputation

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Updated: October 9, 2015

Employees of First Caribbean International Bank staged a protest this morning. Protests were held in front of the Belize City Branch as well in Orange Walk Town.  The employees protested today to denounce the way that CIBC First Caribbean has approached negotiations which is their last since CIBC First Caribbean is selling out to Heritage Bank Limited. In a release by the Christian Workers Union, CWU, which represents the employees of CIBC First Caribbean, states quote, “The employees took a decision to file a notice of industrial action with the Minister of Labour when the bank did not fully respond to the exit proposals submitted.  All previously submitted proposals were responded to in full hence after submitting two letters to the bank advising that our exit proposals were not addressed, the employees became apprehensive, taking actions to protect their position”, end of quote. The release further states quote, “The employees have been advised by CIBC FCIB that they will not negotiate if the employees do not remove the notice of industrial action that they previously issued; the notice requires 21 days before the employees could take action which has now surpassed.  The employees are within their rights to file the notice which has been acknowledged by the bank however they do not respect this right.  The employees feel that these are all tactics to delay and deprive the staff the ability to meaningfully negotiate a proper exit package and salary increases for hard work already done and continues to be exemplified”, end of quote. CIBC First Caribbean issued its own press statement in which it states that quote, “CIBC FirstCaribbean has approached the negotiations towards a new Collective Bargaining Agreement and exit packages for its employees in belize in a mature and professional matter. The bank is dismayed that, despite its best efforts to maintain an air of professionalism and a spirit of cooperation throughout the process, the Union, through Mrs. Matura-Shepherd, continues to attempt to tarnish its reputation for harmonious industrial relations across the region” end of quote. Today we asked Matura-Shepherd for a response.

AUDREY MATURA SHEPHERD

“We couldn’t tell them not to sell, we couldn’t tell them that they have to reveal everything because every one of their transactions is secret. So we won’t tell them that they cannot create vesting act, we couldn’t tell them anything, that was their right under the law. The one right the workers have under the law comes under the Essential Services Act and that Act says that there are certain industries that are essential and that they cannot take industrial action or there will be serious action against them, banks happen to be one. So if workers here want to protest they can’t just come out and protest, if they want to strike they just can’t do it. Everything they have to get permission for so it is practical that you go and invoke your right under the law. It is your only shield but they want the workers to move the one shield they have and they are threatening and holding us at ransom and saying that if we don’t move that that they are not going to talk to us. That is utmost bad faith it’s like the best example of what bad faith is because that’s what they’ve done.”

LOCAL REPORTER

“You obviously read the press statement that the bank sent out and it calls particularly you, as the President saying that you made some statements that they take issue with and they say that you don’t have a sense of professionalism and that you’re saying things that are not so.”

AUDREY MATURA SHEPHERD

“Well you know I expect the bank to try and single me out because what has happened they want to make it seem that they are all for the workers but they are not revealing all the emails they sent to the workers and tacitly threatening and using their influence over the workers. They can say anything they want about me but think about it, it’s just no common sense. At this point they have nothing else, they can’t stop the bank from going away, they cannot stop Central Bank from giving the approval, they couldn’t even stop parliament from passing the Vesting Act; they can’t stop anything the only thing they could do is say that this is the protection they have under the law. For example today they are protesting, it’s only during their lunch time they can protest and not only that they got a permit just in case they would send police to come and intimidate them. When you protest in a single line and keep moving you don’t need a permit but just to be sure they went ahead and got a permit.”

LOCAL REPORTER

“What should you expect should happen after today?”

AUDREY MATURA SHEPHERD

“I don’t know what will happen but you know what the workers say? They say they will fight until the end because they will lose their jobs anyway; they have nothing else to lose. They were hoping that the relationship would have been good, they are very saddened that it has taken a personal turn and we are hoping that soon some of them will break their silence and let you all know what they really think and I can stop being the spokesperson because it’s the same thing with Social Security they broke their silence I don’t have to speak for them anymore. I just think that people underestimate the intelligence of the people we are dealing with and they underestimate that when you put workers backs against the wall and with a sword at their throat they will react and they have the sword at their throat already and the one shield they have in their hand the opponent is trying to drag it out of their hands.”