Yesterday CIBC First Caribbean International Bank sent out a release advising its customers that formal approval has been received from the Central Bank of Belize for the sale of CIBC First Caribbean’s assets in Belize to Heritage Bank Limited. The date for completion of the transition to Heritage Bank is January 31, 2016. This means that CIBC FirstCaribbean’s final date of commercial operation in Belize will be on January 29. This is good news for CIBC and Heritage bank but not for the employees and members of the Christian Workers Union who have been in negotiation over a collective bargaining agreement for months now. Since their last meeting months ago, the parties have not met. Today President of the Christian Workers Union, Audrey Matura Shepherd, says she was surprised to hear that the final approval was given.
AUDREY MATURA SHEPHERD
“Sadly when you go to negotiate what you try to do is both parties may be asking for something far an apart so you keep coming closer. While every meeting the union gave in a point the bank refused to move, they stayed at the same part and so at some point there was just an impasse, there was no way forward even with the bank insisting that they wanted mediated negotiations with the labor commissioner it didn’t work. What was ironic during those negotiations is the fact that even when the union showed that “okay we were asking for ten of whatever and we had gone down to eight and then to seven and then to six.” if the bank says all they are giving is two. First they said one then they said 1.5 then they said 2 and after that they moved nowhere so it’s hard to negotiate like that. There was a major impasse and at this point all we can do is go back to the negotiating table. What is critical is whether the negotiation is concluded before they physically leave of not is a matter that has to be concluded at some point so the sooner we do it the better it would be.”
“Now the Central Bank in giving approval did they approach the union, did they dialogue with the union about these issues?”
AUDREY MATURA SHEPHERD
“No unfortunately the Central Bank seems to be of the view that they don’t need to consult any other party that would be affected. We had written the bank a letter asking them what would be their obligations to the workers in such a situation, they wrote back and said there was none so they are of that view. we believed otherwise that is why we had written the letter to the bank and to the Prime Minister and as you all noticed the other authorities didn’t care about the workers. Imagine the government, the Minister of Finance went ahead and passed the legislation, we are waiting to hear from them now because they said they would not sign in the date until they knew that the negotiations were concluded and the negotiations are not concluded as yet. We haven’t heard from that party. As you all noticed we didn’t even know that there was a press release being issued. In the press release nothing is mentioned about the employees, only the customers. Despite the bank not having any dialogue with us they were insisting to have a meeting and we were unable to attend that meeting before because we are completing negotiations with other entities. So then Mr.Smith from the bank insisted that if he could only at least visit the office to talk with Mr.Neal, which he did yesterday. The reason that was important for them to have done is because the legislation and the CBA clearly say that whatever decision that will affect the workers they had to first inform the bank then they had to implement it. So without that meeting they would have violated our collective bargaining agreement. So they popped in at the office yesterday to tell us that this is the exit date and to give us a letter saying now that the law kicks into effect, which we always said that the redundancy law came to effect long before and just to go through the formality and thereafter they had a meeting with the employees to answer some of their concerns. Certain promises and statements were made and that is where we left and we had no intention of saying anything because we knew we had to go back to the table, then the press release came and then we knew they made it official outside rather than what they told us.”