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Sep 11, 2015

FCIB Sale to Heritage Imminent

At least sixty employees of five First Caribbean International Bank branches in Belize today contracted some mysterious malady which caused them to call in sick. Actually, it’s more likely what is called a sick-out, and it is in response to the looming departure of CIBC-FCIB which is selling out to Heritage Bank. The very ill employees could not talk because of a media clause in their employment contracts, but their union representative, CWU President Audrey Matura-Shepherd, did. The bottom line, as we understand it, is Government’s green lighting of the sale through its passage of a Vesting Act on Tuesday in the House. Matura-Shepherd says that since early July they have been trying to confirm reports of the FCIB departure in order to negotiate appropriate benefits and packages for employees who will be let go. She says all parties in the sale basically stalled for time, and now with the sale almost complete, those employees have been left in the lurch. 

 

Audrey Matura-Shepherd

Audrey Matura-Shepherd, President, Christian Workers Union

“What is happening here is that there are over sixty employees which will be left without a job. Of those sixty which include managers and everyone, sixty of them are members of the Christian Workers Union. We have 100% membership from the employees except for those on contract. Those sixty employees are concerned about one basic thing. When the bank closes, they will be left without a job. What First Caribbean has not told anyone is that fifty percent of their loans that they carry right now are from their own employees, so that means fifty percent of their loans cannot be paid because fifty percent of those loans are being held by the employees who will be without a job. It is not true that any of those employees have been offered any employment at Heritage Bank. We know that the Prime Minister gave an assurance that the vast majority would be employed. That is not true. There is the most that has been communicated to us at the union is that Heritage Bank will be needing employees, but they can’t commit that they will take any quantity of employees, and it would be on a one on one basis who will be employed by Heritage Bank, and clearly that wasn’t part of the negotiations. That was a verbal comment because there is no written commitment. But even if Heritage Bank employs any of these employees, what people don’t understand is that the benefits that heritage Bank employees get are very limited. Their staff is very underpaid and benefits are very low. You could imagine how the employees feel knowing that Central Bank has given its approval despite us writing and asking them to liaise with us. Now we learn that Government is going to pass this vesting act which makes it final. Once the vesting act is passed that makes it final. It’s just to go through the semantics and the transition. So the employees would be left without any leverage to negotiate. We believe it’s an intentional putting off of addressing our proposal so that it would buy time for the FCIB to get what they want and leave our employees without the ability to negotiate something decent for them to move.”

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