After a three hour meeting, representatives from the Christian Workers’ Union and First Caribbean Development Bank decided to finally enter into negotiations. The meeting was held at the Labour Department and was mediated by the Labour Commissioner, Ivan Williams at the invitation of both parties. As you may already know, FCIB struck a deal to sell its assets to Heritage Bank but the problem is that the employees were being left in limbo as they were uncertain as to what their exit package would be and if they would be collecting their outstanding salary increase. What compounded the fears of the workers was that there was no Collective Bargaining Agreement. While Prime Minister Dean Barrow has passed the Vesting Act into law, paving way for the sale, no date has been set as to when it will take effect until certain situations have been resolved, one of which is the one with the employees. But by what Audrey Matura Shepherd and Labor Commissioner told us last night, the bank is willing to give the employees an exit package seeing that they have decided to enter in negotiations to do so.
AUDREY MATURA SHEPHERD
“For us at the level of the union it’s 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 there and then before he sends it to the Senate and it could have then be part of the legislation of the Vesting Act that he now puts an addition 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, a large indication, but it’s not a promise and sometimes promises are just for fools. It’s not in writing but that said now, the union clearly has looked after the interest of the workers and so what we are doing is we are trying to negotiate in good faith to make sure that we get what would be right for the workers at the end of the day. It is, we believe, that the Vesting Act is a leverage already for both banks, we can’t undo that; clearly those have powers beyond us. But from our end the right thing for us to do is update our members with all that has taken place giving them details that we cannot give to you all and for us to then remain optimistic that the bank genuinely wants to ensure that when they leave Belize they don’t leave with a bad name and they don’t just look at the employees as just another sixty employees but its sixty head of households and we want people to put a face to the reality of sixty head of households who are earning for their family and all of whom have financial obligations and especially who have loans with the bank. So, we are just being practical at this point to make sure that whatever we do we keep their best interest because at the end of the day clear cut it’s only the union that will look after the interest, they are our members and that’s our job.”
“In one regard there is presently, as we speak, a proposal from two sides; a proposal from the bank in terms of its exit package coming from the union and a redundancy packages 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.”