A strike by employees of First Citizens Bank that threatened to cripple the financial institution has been called off after the bank and the union representing the workers reached agreement late tonight on profit sharing.
Following six hours of talks today between senior officials of the bank and the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), which started at 3p.m., BWU General Secretary Dwaine Paul revealed the two sides had reached an agreement in principle on the contentious issue.
As a result, Paul said, the workers would end the strike, which began yesterday, and would be back on the job tomorrow morning.
“The parties met today and were able to make some progress towards resolving the matter and to that extent the workers will be on duty tomorrow . . . .The bank has recognized and agreed that the 2016 agreement will be honoured which has seen us into a workable relationship that would be fully fleshed out tomorrow,” Paul told reporters at the conclusion of the meeting held at the First Citizens’ Broad Street branch.
The bank’s operations ground to a virtual halt today for the second straight day, as approximately 75 per cent of workers continued their strike to force First Citizens to honour a profit-sharing agreement, which the BWU said was reached two years ago.
With the exception of Broad Street, The City, Somerley Banking Centre and the branch at Massy Store, both at Worthing, Christ Church, all First Citizens branches were closed today as a result of the industrial action.
From 11:30 a.m. today BWU executives were in communication via telephone with senior officials of the bank, but these talks yielded no resolution.
At 3:00 p.m. the talks moved to First Citizens’ main branch at Broad Street where negotiations continued until 9 p.m. and concluded in the agreement, which ended the prospects of a third day of strike action.
Paul had told reporters yesterday the bank, whose parent company is based in Trinidad and Tobago, had reneged on its agreement with the workers, creating an atmosphere where workers felt they were being exploited.
“The decision of the bank is not based on any real developments in Barbados but has to do mainly with policy decisions being made by First Citizen’s parents in Trinidad as to how things should operate. We have been discussing with the bank for the last few weeks about this matter, which the bank has negotiated in bad faith. To date the response has not been forthcoming.
“We cannot have a high-handed approach where the bank agrees in good faith to do one thing, then unilaterally decide to do something else and the workers have to take it. The workers of Barbados are not open to be exploited by anyone, be it a local, regional or international company, ” Paul insisted at the time. He had also accused the bank of making future industrial relations processes difficult by ignoring key negotiation practices such as the gentleman’s agreement.
“The union is always open to negotiation and the first option is always to dialogue because Barbados is built on having industrial relations where we discuss and have gentleman’s agreements. This is exactly what is being threatened in this case,” Paul stressed at the time.