Retired trade union leader Dennis Clarke is totally against the planned take over of Barbadian-owned Banks Holdings Limited (BHL) by outside investors.
In fact, he said, if the current bid was successful, it would be nothing short of a “sad” development.
Clarke, who stepped aside as General Secretary of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) earlier this year after decades in the trade union movement, also expressed fear that the impending move would lead to further retrenchment in the private sector at a time when the country is already grappling with high unemployment.
Among those bidding for control of BHL are the Trinidad-based Ansa McAl and the St Lucia-based SLU Beverages Ltd.
Clarke is also concerned about what a take over would mean for small Barbadian shareholders in BHL.
“For me I think it is a sad time. I guess the people with the large shares in it, they will profit, but what happens to the common individual who had a little 10 shares here, and a little 20 shares there, when they [BHL] put shares up for sale and encouraged Bajans back in the 1960s to buy?” he asked.
Though accepting of the fact that “everything is for a time” and therefore change was inevitable, he said he remained hopeful that the institution could remain in Barbadian hands and that the jobs of locals could be guaranteed.
At the same time, he lamented the gradual disappearance of indigenous Barbadian enterprises saying his wish was that Barbados could hold onto BHL and not allow it to suffer the same fate as firms such as the former Barbados National Bank and Barbados Shipping & Trading, which are now owned by Trinidadian conglomerates.
“I believe that we should hold on to that institution (BHL) and don’t let it end up like how we have lost the national bank,” the former union boss advised.
“When you go through the Caribbean you find the various islands have their own national banks operating; we do not have one; and I believe that Banks Holdings Limited, . . . we should have been able to hold on it . . . and get majority shareholding or pretty near to it,” he contended.
The veteran trade unionist said before “you [would] pass by the shop in the district and hear a man boasting he had shares in Banks [BHL], but wondered aloud how such an individual would be feeling today.
“I would have loved to see that institution remain [with] the majority Barbadian shareholding] ,” said Clarke, adding that some foreign shareholders don’t really think much about the citizens of Barbados.
Clarke also warned that “in most hostile take overs, you will see that there is a downsizing.
“They [investors] hide behind the word deficiencies and therefore you are going to find that is what is going to happen. … I would hope not. But if I look at the pattern across the United States and Britain and those places, I fear that that is what might occur. I don’t want it, but I say that’s a fear that I have,” the former NUPW general secretary said.
SLU Beverages Ltd first announced the proposed take over bid of BHL earlier this month, having already helped finance construction of the new brewery at Newton, Christ Church, more than five years ago – and in the process became BHL’s single largest shareholder.
But earlier this week, Ansa McAl countered by offering a much better deal for the remaining shareholders of $5.20.