Posted: Saturday, January 23, 2016. 7:32 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: The weekend edition of the Amandala newspaper reports that a new collective bargaining agreement between the management of CIBC First Caribbean International Bank and its workers who are affiliated with the Christian Workers’ Union (CWU) is on the verge of being signed, and – even as the bank prepares to shut its doors later this week – workers have received 2 percent pay rises for 2014 and 2015.
The CBA had been reached as much as two weeks ago, the Amandala says, but it has not been signed. It includes a settlement of concerns of workers over their debts to the bank.
Honoring a commitment that the business of negotiations on the agreement would not be made public until the right time, those with whom Amandala spoke answered anonymously and declined to disclose exact terms of the exit package.
In December 2015, when the bank announced that it had decided to formally close its Belize offices at the end of January, president of the Christian Workers Union, Audrey Matura-Shepherd, had said that the bank originally offered workers a salary increase of 1% while the unions started with a bid for a salary raise of around 8%, in line with what the public officers and teachers have been receiving.
The bank later moved to 2% and the CWU tried to meet them midway by requesting 5%, but the bank has since refused to move from its position, according to the CWU president, who told Amandala that she had not been informed that workers were paid their salary increases earlier today.
There are concerns that if workers use the money paid to them before the agreement is formally inked, it could be interpreted as a tacit consummation of the deal—even ahead of its formal signing.
When Amandala probed a union source about the process for reaching the final concession with workers, that person said that the parties had gone to the table and negotiated, and they did what they had to do to get the issues resolved as efficiently as possible.
The new agreement could be signed in the coming week. Matura-Shepherd is on leave from her role with the Union up to yesterday, Friday, and General Secretary Floyd Neal is off until February.
When asked whether workers are happy with the settlement, Amandala’s reporter was told that the majority of them, if not all of them, are; while workers did not get everything they wanted, they were able to reach agreement on the major points.
First Caribbean’s last business day in Belize is Friday, January 29, and some of its workers are being offered jobs at Heritage Bank, which is assuming the Belize assets and accounts of the bank as of February 1.
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