And while the threat from the bank workers as it relates to votes in the upcoming elections, there is also the pressure that may result from the possibility of the workers taking industrial action. Matura-Shepherd spoke on that possibility considering that the Prime Minister will not be intervening on what he has classified as a business transaction between two private entities, namely, CIBC First Caribbean International Bank and Heritage Bank.
“One of the things that the employees are looking at is the law that provides for them to go on strike. So we are looking at all the industrial actions they can take because one of the things, they were not saying that they are expecting only the Government to support them; so, I don’t want people to leave with the impression that we would sit by and think that the Prime Minister and the Government would be the savior of the day. We weren’t even asking the Prime Minister not to pass the law, we gave you all a copy of that letter; we were saying, “don’t rush into it, even if it’s at a distant you be assured that you know both sides of the story and allow these two parties to negotiate, don’t remove the rug from under the feet of the workers.” That’s what we were asking for. We know that we have to do our part and we are doing our part but when you, as a powerful player come and interject and make the hell of a statements that he has made then clearly you know where you stand. We are no fools but what he has not said is that we have approached him in all good faith and we never made public before what we said to him, what we wrote to him, that we copied him in everything. So he can’t pretend that all of a sudden this is an arms length transaction. As much as he wants to call it that, at the end of the day, Parliament is a public entity, the power of Parliament has been used to pass a Vesting Act. His hand is on it, whether he wants or not.”
While the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement bears an expiration date of 2013, the terms reportedly still apply until a new document is formalized. The media asked Matura Shepherd to explain why the union feels it unnecessary to negotiate a new CBA and only focus on the exit packages.
AUDREY MATURA SHEPHERD
“Their harping over a CBA is neither here nor there because the CBA, as it stands, and even the one that we proposed without knowing that there was going to be closure of the business, did not address key things that the employees would have wanted upon exit. So when we met with them and we said we had a proposed CBA to replace the other one on August 6, we made it clear to the management of FCIB that going through the motion of dealing with all the issues in a CBA was a nullity because the old one still exists; so all the issues of maternity leave, over time that still exists. So we asked them, “Can we instead deal with the exit package?” So, it would be that it’s possible that we have a situation where the old CBA remains the existing one while we deal with the other issues of exit or we totally don’t deal with anything in the old CBA because what is there is still subsisting and we deal strictly with what we call an exit package. If they want to marry it into the CBA or they want to do it apart, it’s neither here nor there; that is not the issue. The issue is that we want to address the issues of full departure and so when I think it’s rather misleading when the government and the bank keeps harping “oh but a CBA a CBA” its neither here nor there. The real issue we need to address is the exit package which is not in the previous CBA because you have to remember, I was not in that previous negotiation but CWU with the employees at that time negotiated in good faith that there would be continuity of employment, they didn’t envision a situation where they wouldn’t have a job and when we wanted to negotiate a new CBA we insisted and harped on the fact that we wanted to know if they were having a sale because it would have changed the background on which we negotiate and what we would have asked for.”
Love News understands that while the bank’s management is willing to meet with the CWU, the only thing they are willing to discuss or negotiate is the Collective Bargaining Agreement and not the exit packages.