By Benjamin Flowers
First Caribbean International Bank and the Christian Workers Union (CWU) are closer to settling matters over an exit package for workers, after a meeting this week facilitated by the Labour Department.
Labour Commissioner, Ivan Williams, explained on Tuesday that executives from the bank and the CWU met at the Labour Department’s office in Belize City where they had what he calls a “productive meeting.”
“It was very amicable and we were able to understand the parties, their issues and we were able to get them to agree on the common issues and a way forward.
“We are hoping now that the parties will meet on those dates and hopefully that they can work out a package and an arrangement with respect to the exit, in terms of if and when the sale takes place”, Williams said.
Williams added that the Labour Department did not previously intervene in the imatter because the rules governing that type of transaction prohibit the Department’s involvement until it is invited by the parties, which was the case in Tuesday’s meeting.
Williams added that as a part of his intervention, he reminded the parties that Section 45 of the Labour Act, Chapter 297 revised Edition 2000 of the Laws of Belize, makes provision where a seller completes a sale of a company without fulfilling all its obligations to the workers, for the buyer to assume those responsibilities.
CWU president, Audrey Matura-Shepherd, explained that she could not disclose details of the negotiations, but she was satisfied to say that the meeting was productive.
“We remain optimistic that the bank genuinely wants to ensure that when it leaves Belize, it doesn’t leave with a bad name”, Matura-Shepherd said.
She added that the her union is preparing for and look forward to negotiations in good faith. The parties are scheduled to begin negotiations on Monday September 28.
In August FCIB announced that it would sell its assets Heritage Bank and it would cease all its operations in Belize. The implication is that some 60 employees from five branches in various parts of the country would be made redundant and left jobless.
The CWU has been working on securing the best exit and redundancy package for the workers, and has called on the support of the government of Belize to assist by not passing the relevant Vesting Bill, enabling the sale to go through.
Last week, government passed the Vesting Bill, and Prime Minister Dean Barrow explained that while the Bill enables the sale, he is the one who sets the commencement date and he will not do so until several prerequisites are met.