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Sep 3, 2014

FCIB Accepts Uwahnie Martinez’s Resignation, Still No Meeting With CWU

Last Tuesday, the plight of Uwahnie Martinez, an employee of CIBC FirstCaribbean Bank, made headlines when she was reportedly informed by her superiors at the institution that she wasn’t allowed to speak in Garifuna while at the workplace.  Undoubtedly, the position of the bank raised the ire of many, particularly residents of the predominantly Garifuna township, who took to the streets on Friday in protest.  While bank officials would later address the media to state that employees are allowed to converse privately in any language, that statement is being challenged by the Christian Workers Union which represents Martinez.  Today, CWU President, Audrey Matura-Shepherd, told the media that the bank has accepted Martinez’ resignation. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.


Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The story of Uwahnie Martinez, an employee of First Caribbean Bank in Dangriga, continues to develop amid allegations that she has been barred from speaking Garifuna while transacting business with customers at the local branch.  That issue came to light a week ago, when Dr. Theodore Aranda spoke candidly about her ordeal with News Five.  Today, Audrey Matura-Shepherd, president of the Chritian Workers Union, gave an update on the matter.


Audrey Matura-Shepherd, President, Christian Workers Union

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“What happened when we became aware of the issue as is protocol we had to convene our executive meeting and see how we move forward with that issue. The issue then became public of the Garifuna speaking by employees at the branch. But the issue I must say is that and more. The bank immediately wrote and email and made several calls to me asking to meet with them personally and also to meet with the employee apart. Our issue is that we never have meeting concerning any employee in their absence especially a matter of this nature. We did not believe in having two separate meeting so we wrote them back to ask them one to have the employee there and to ensure that all the evidence that they have tried to use against her that we have all the records straight. Up to today they have refused to give us that material.”


The management of the bank, says Matura-Shepherd, is yet to convene a meeting with the Christian Workers Union to address several points that have arisen out of the scandal.


Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“We’ve given them a deadline for tomorrow at 1 P.M. Failing we will make public and dispose some of the really nasty things that has happened and been perpetrated by the bank. We are prepared to show the email where the employee has written to the highest management not only in Belize City to address the issue, they have refused to answer the issue. When Ms. Martinez indicated that she wanted to resign because clearly she wasn’t getting head way with the bank. It is a culture where you say that I am in charge and will have it no other way. The bank had refused to accept her resignation and wanted to make certain claims against her but refused to give the union to substantiate anything they said. Employers like to do that because they know they have to pay you off their benefits. But if they don’t accept your resignation and they find a way to condemn you. You either get so frighten you take it and walk away or if you do fight it they stretches it you but eventually they can say I didn’t accept your resignation and I fired you so then you lose all your benefits. So it was very important where the union deals with this matter timely.”


The issue of prohibition of the use of Garifuna in the workplace at CIBC First Caribbean isn’t limited to Martinez.  According to Matura-Shepherd, another employee has been subjected to similar conditions.


Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“It is maybe coincidence or as our track record is showing that it is the only two Garifuna speaking employees of this bank that is being affected by these policies. Likewise the other employee wrote to the bank complaining as to the treatment, pointed out what has happened at the highest level and they had not responded so clearly the union has to intervene. There are several things we are not satisfied with and we will make it know today. And we hope that when we go to the meeting with the bank, if there is a meeting and if there is not a meeting then we know what our other options are, that the bank would address it.”


Last Friday, the bank, through Shaelene Castillo, issued a statement.  That statement is being challenged.


Audrey Matura-Shepherd

“There was a reporter who asked her what happens if a customer comes and speaks to you in a language other than English how must you respond. Well you speak to them in that language as you want. But the letter they sent to us said otherwise. So there is so many contradictions we need to know clearly. Even within their own statement, one minute they are saying yes you can speak it in only in your own private conversations and then yes you can speak but it has to be out of the earshot and of other who don’t understand.”


The matter, we understand, may be brought before the Labor Commissioner. Isani Cayetano Reporting for News Five.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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5 Responses for “FCIB Accepts Uwahnie Martinez’s Resignation, Still No Meeting With CWU”

  1. steven says:

    First Caribbean wants to sweep this under the rug with one simple false and contradictory statement to the media. I say keep up the pressure, get rid of the branch manager who is responsible for this and take this matter to labor and make of them an example. Way too many companies in Belize take advantage of employees who do not know their rights. So to all my Belizean workers empower yourselves with knowledge and read the labor act and know your rights…..

  2. Elgin Martinez says:

    This Bank need to be held financially accountable. I say sue the institution.Let these bigots know that discrimination of any form will not be tolerated .

  3. Elgin Martinez says:

    What will the National Garifuna Council do to address this situation.I say hold the Bank financially liable.Make an example of these bigots.

  4. Rhianna says:

    Another institution where people are being taken advantage of is the leader of all financial institutions in Belize which is the Central Bank of Belize. The Governor Glen Ysaguirre needs to go!!! He is very unprofessional, vindictive and disrespectful especially women. Department Heads are afraid to stand up to this beast!!! As such, a lot of staff resigning. Check his track record he is poison to every institution he enters. The Governor and his two stool pigeons the Deputy Governors refuses to see they are the problems. But then again their Government is in power.!!! Way to go Ms. Martinez at least you stand up for yourself.

  5. CEO says:

    Do not let them get away with this!

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