By Carlena Knight
Teller services at the Friars Hill Road branch of Caribbean Union Bank (CUB) were temporarily suspended yesterday as workers took industrial action over their dissatisfaction with management and “a breakdown in the negotiation process” for salary increases.
Because of their action, customers had to travel to the secondary location at the Starling Complex on Factory Road to conduct business.
But even at that new location, services were limited as line staff and other workers joined their Friars Hill Road branch colleagues in the strike.
In fact, when Observer media visited both branches, the workers were outside the office buildings.
Also present was the President of the Antigua Free Trade Union, Samuel James, who explained why the employees decided to take such drastic action.
“We think that the bank maybe is not taking us seriously and so we thought that it was necessary for us to come together as a group of employees and to show our disgust, our frustration, our rejection of management’s position,” James said.
“At this time, everybody is using Covid as a reason not to increase salaries, but while everyone is using Covid as an excuse, there are certain top officials in this country that are making proclamations that the Caribbean Union Bank is doing so well and that it was in a position to pay dividends to its investors, but when you meet behind closed doors, the information that you are getting is starkly different to what is being pronounced publicly.
“We are tired of the hypocrisy and we are saying that workers matter,” he said.
The negotiations, which began between the two parties in 2019, collapsed recently amid claims the bank’s management are dragging their feet.
Chief among the issues was an increase in salaries and wages, but payment for unused sick days and mutual separation packages were other areas James highlighted were being discussed.
He explained that a proposal was made to make an interim increase of three percent on salaries and that management had indicated they already had something in place – but he claimed nothing has been done to date.
In fact, it was apparently a meeting held two weeks ago that solidified staff’s position and prompted the action taken on Wednesday.
The fact that the organisation opened another branch and continued to sponsor other events and activities James said was frustrating for staff to witness while nothing appears to be done to compensate them.
“We can’t have an institution where workers are investing their time, resources, energy, expertise, but yet we are seeing this organisation investing significant funds in other extra work activities. Sponsorship of all sorts of things but then we are finding excuses not to treat fairly the people that are making the organising and we are tired of that.
“So, we are saying that we are taking action to force management to recognise the importance of the employees. We are not asking for anything difficult. We are not asking for anything unreasonable. We are saying, we need our fair share as employees,” James explained.
“Businesses have a responsibility to ensure that the image that they are projecting out there that things are so good match up with the reality behind closed doors. We are not going to be accepting that you are not doing good behind closed doors and publicly it is being pronounced that you are doing well.”
He said the excuse apparently given by management that coffers are low because they opened the new branch in 2020 is unacceptable.
James declared that until management does something to address these issues, workers will continue to take industrial action.
“We hope we do not have to be out there tomorrow because the matters can be resolved,” he added.
Caribbean Union Bank is an indigenous commercial bank which was founded in 2005.
Its management could not be reached for comment yesterday.