By Carlena Knight
Operations at the Friars Hill branch of the Caribbean Union Bank were completely halted on Friday, while limited operations were conducted at the Factory Road complex as line staff once again took industrial action over the breakdown in negotiations over several issues.
The negotiations, which began between the two parties in 2019, collapsed recently amid claims the bank’s management were dragging their feet.
Chief among the issues was an increase in salaries and wages, but payment for unused sick days, paternity leave, and mutual separation were also being discussed.
Following a meeting between the parties the same week of the August 4thprotest, the Labour Department submitted several recommendations to both management and workers as a consensus could not be reached, but those recommendations were rejected by both parties.
Where salary negotiations are concerned, the union said it requested 3 percent for the first, second and third year consecutively — nine percent over three years.
However, the CUB was offering 3 percent for the first year, and zero percent for the second and third years.
The Labour Department’s recommendation is 3 percent for the first year, 1 percent for the second year and 1.5 percent for the third year.
Additionally, the five-day period for paternity leave recommended by the Department is insufficient, according to James, and the union is adamant that a 10-day period would be more beneficial.
All parties also failed to strike a compromise on the issue of payment for unused sick days.
The union is also asking for severance for employees who worked at the CUB for 10 years, and may have to migrate for citizenship and other reasons.
The union was also not pleased with the Labour Department’s response to the issue of mutual separation.
Since then, President of the Antigua and Barbuda Free Trade Union, Samuel James, told Observer media that the matter of salary increases and other issues remains unresolved.
James explained that the recent actions of some members of the management team are not only disrespectful but show that they have no interest in resolving the matter at hand.
Instead, they are trying to use scare tactics to prevent staff from taking further action.
“We are aware that management has approached several employees, especially the newer employees and that they are giving them indications to the effect that ‘look, if it comes to the time for lay off or to terminate persons, last come first out’, so they are using scare tactics based on the information that has come to our attention.
“They have tried to meet with some of our membership and tried to influence them on Wednesday that they should not take any further action. What we object to and what we take offence to is that not only does the company appear to be in union busting, but the management of Caribbean Union Bank is totally disrespectful to the Antigua and Barbuda Free Trade Union and we are not going to accept that,” James said.
“If they had any good intentions and wanted to come to a resolution, they should have approached the union and sit down and resolve this ,but to go behind backs and try to intimidate and try to scare employees is unacceptable and unlawful,” he added.
Because of their actions, James revealed it is the union’s intent to not only write to the Labour Commissioner next week to inform him of the incident, but to request that an investigation and legal action be taken against those guilty parties.
“We are placing the public on notice that the ABFTU will not accept this and we are going to write to the Labour Department to ask them to investigate it and to take what legal actions is necessary. It’s unacceptable; not in 2021,” he said.
He explained the law gives staff the right to take action over these issues and because of this, they will be taking industrial action every day until the matter is resolved.
Countless calls to reach the bank’s management for a comment on the matter went unanswered.