Even after writing Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, Minister of Labour Dr Esther Byer, the National Insurance Department (NIS) and appearing before the Severance Payment Tribunal, dozens of former British American Insurance Company (BAICO) sales agents are still awaiting resolution of their issue.
In a Barbados TODAY interview, a spokesman complained the former employees felt sidelined from getting paid out, because most of Government’s attention was focused on seeking to resolve the CLICO International Life Insurance Company (CIL) debacle.
Describing their treatment as disrespectful and unfair, former BAICO branch manager Hugh Greenidge said the agents had done everything required since being terminated in 2012 by the court-appointed judicial manager, accounting firm KPMG represented by Lisa Taylor and Michael Edghill.
Greenidge said the straw that broke the camel’s back was when the company’s lawyers, Clarke, Gittens & Farmer, got the High Court to order a stay of all actions against BAICO three years ago. He said since that time, everybody they had turned to for help, including Dr Byer –– the only one to respond to their letters –– and the Tribunal, have been adopting a hands-off attitude.
Speaking on behalf of the more than 40 staff affected by the non-payment of severance, the former branch manager said the Tribunal saw no reason why they should not be paid, except that it could do nothing because of the stay order. He noted that similar responses came from various attorneys to whom they turned.
He said Dr Byer, in a January 27, 2014 letter replying to one former staffer, gave specific reasons why she was unable to help.
“Further to your letter of November 25, 2013 and our subsequent discussion, I have investigated the application of Section 31 of the Severance Payment Act, to your matter… Our legal counsel has advised that this is not applicable here as the issue is not the insolvency of the employer (BAICO), but that matter is under Judicial Management. As such, I as Minister have no jurisdiction in this matter.”
Flanked by two other terminated agents, Greenidge lamented the suffering most of the former BAICO staff were experiencing, but even worse, what policyholders and pensioners were going through. He said the fallout from the stay order has resulted in far reaching consequences for pensioners in particular and families who are unable to receive any payments for death claims.
The former branch manager estimated that about 100 policyholders have died since the stay order and their families were unable to collect payments for death claims. He contended that if this matter was not resolved speedily, other policyholders would die leaving loved ones to bear the financial burden of funeral expenses.
Greenidge also said BAICO has not paid out pensions since 2009.
“If you don’t solve this problem soon, how do you restore public confidence in the insurance industry?” he asked. “When I say solve it, don’t just solve it just to come to any kind of solution…you need a proper solution at the end of the day, so that policyholders can see there is no real problem in the insurance industry, (that) this was just a little bump,” added the insurance and financial advisor. He voiced fears that there will be severe problems for the industry for the next 10 years in Barbados if this issue is allowed to drag on.
“You could imagine you got pensioners who were getting a pension, who were depending on a pension and you just stop it. British American pensioners . . . they [BAICO] ceased paying pensions from 2009; so the British American pensioners are suffering worse,” Greenidge stated.
Efforts to contact Judicial Manager Lisa Taylor or Michael Edghill as well as lawyer for British American Omari Drakes proved futile.