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Oct 29, 2015

FirstCaribbean Bank Employees Take to the Picket Line

A fresh round of protests began today by employees of the CIBC First Caribbean Bank. As early as seven-thirty, employees who are members of the Christian Workers Union, demonstrated in front of the bank on Albert Street in the downtown area. The bank has not disclosed when it is closing for good having sold its assets to Heritage Bank since September. The employees believe that FCIB is stalling the negotiations for salary increases, severance pay and an exit package. Duane Moody reports. 

 

Geovanni Brackett, President, COLA

“Sixty individuals mean sixty families; sixty families may translate from six hundred to six thousand friends and family that will not vote for you cause they have seen how you have treated their employees.”

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

Day one of several rounds of demonstration by CIBC employees commenced today in front of the bank’s headquarters on Albert Street in downtown in Belize City and will continue through to next week. Every day, between the hours of seven and nine a.m. and then again from eleven a.m. to one p.m., sixty employees, who stand to lose their jobs, will take to the streets to voice their displeasure and concerns on the negotiating process of their exit package. Employees from all five branches of the bank, who are members of the Christian Workers Union, converged in the city and for the first time, are breaking their silence on the matter.

 

Derrick Perera

Derrick Perera, Chief Union Rep., CIBC First Caribbean Bank

“We’ve been silent for some time now. After our last protest probably about three weeks ago, we went to a negotiation meeting and the bank decided that they would negotiate with us, even if our strike notice was not lifted. However those negotiations have not proceeded the way we anticipated it would have. There haven’t been much movement at all from the bank at all in terms of their stance and what they want to offer us. And there is a big divide between what the employees are looking for and what the bank is willing to give. So after last meeting on Monday, the twenty-sixth of this week, the employees decided that we have to take a much stronger stance; we have to show the bank that we are united and the result of what is happening out here today is what was decided at that meeting.”

 

The issue at hand is that the collective bargaining agreement between the bank and the union members had expired on December thirty-first, 2013 and since then a new CBA was never completed. Now the appropriate exit package for the employees is tied to the negotiations of the long-overdue CBA.

 

Derrick Perera

“There’s a huge difference in between where they are and what I’d like to say is that their position is basically still as what was in our CBA as we last agreed and so there has been no movement for the current CBA that we are trying to negotiate.”

 

Now it is not the first such industrial action that has been taken by the employees. Joining the protest were members of the Citizens Organized for Liberty through Action. Its president, Geovanni Brackett is a former employee of the bank.

 

Geovanni Brackett

Geovanni Brackett

“We feel it is our duty to show solidarity with these workers. Every worker who has worked and worked professionally, these individuals deserve the best settlement. I think that the government is playing games. From the Commissioner of Labor Department; I think that they are playing games with these workers. We at COLA don’t feel satisfied that the best has been done to ensure that these workers get the best settlement.”

 

The fate of the sixty employees was decided since August third of this year when the regional bank informed its management and staff in Belize that it was pulling out of the country for good. CIBC First Caribbean Bank sold all its assets to Heritage Bank Limited, a much smaller local bank. This was facilitated through a Vesting Bill passed into law on September sixteenth. Still yet, the bank has not disclosed its official departure date, but whenever its doors are finally closed, most of the employees will join the unemployment pool.  For Chief Union Rep, Derrick Perera, he has been working with the bank for over nine years and he is concerned about the future of his family and those of his coworkers.

 

Derrick Perera

“Basically everybody is going to be out of a job; the unionized members that are out here as well as the management team. The effects that it will have on all the employees are going to be similar. Some people have already found jobs; however, the masses have not found jobs as yet. They are still here trying to carry out the work of the bank, trying to gather everything for this transition. The major issue is that employees have no idea when is the exit date. As one of our signs say, our lives are in limbo. If employees know what they are getting, then they would be in a position to make a better decision as to…do I leave and I know what I am leaving on the table and go to a full-time employment or should I stay knowing that I am going to get exed.”

 

Duane Moody

“You personally; talk to us about what’s your plan.”

 

Derrick Perera

“Basically I have no plan as yet. like I’ve said, I’ve started my personal CV, but I haven’t sent anything out as yet because we don’t know what our position is. Like most of us here, we are the primary breadwinners in our families. We have kids, we have mortgages, we have other loans that we have to meet.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

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1 Response for “FirstCaribbean Bank Employees Take to the Picket Line”

  1. Elgin Martinez says:

    Belizeans are waking up, thank God.

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