It appears that some jobs in the banking industry may have been casualties of Government’s domestic debt restructuring.
First Citizens Bank is to cut staff here, the workers’ bargaining agent, the Barbados Workers’ Union (BWU), has revealed.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY, Deputy General Secretary of the BWU Dwaine Paul disclosed that the union has been locked in negotiations with the bank for over a month. He noted that the bank has put the argument of “the net financial impact of Government’s restructuring exercise” at the forefront of its own restructuring initiative.
Paul said: “At the heart of the restructuring – from the bank’s communication to us – seems to be spearheaded by the fact that the bank has obviously sustained adjustments to its financial projections, due squarely to the debt forgiveness programme entered into with Government. So, based on the information we received, this seems to be a knock-on effect of that agreement that they have formed with Government.”
He further revealed that the bank intends to return several aspects of its operation, including collections, to its home base in Trinidad and Tobago. But, he pointed out that the number of jobs on the chopping block has not yet been determined as “discussions are still on-going”.
He added: “The bank is saying that aspects of its operations will be consolidated to its operations in its home base in Trinidad, and as a result there will be some fallout in employment.
But he added that the bank was exploring some expansion opportunity which may result in some net positions created.
Although stressing that the BWU had no issues with the bank’s decision to restructure, the union leader expressed concern with the manner in which it was being done, charging that industrial relations protocols were not being adhered to.
The BWU Deputy General Secretary charged that the bank was simultaneously conducting separate negotiations with the staff members while in talks with the BWU about the restructuring, at one stage asking staff to sign non-disclosure agreements.
Paul told Barbados TODAY: “We are having problems where institutions signal that they are going to have a conversation and then they go and vary those conversations when they meet with the staff.
‘The bank would have had discussions with one or two staff members and based on those discussions some staff members would have opted to leave before the restructuring talks had reached a conclusion.
“The staff were presented with a non-disclosure agreement, but the union’s position was that they should not sign it. The bank subsequently moved away from this position,” he said.
Paul contended that overseas firms operating here needed to familiarise themselves with industrial relations practices of this country and not assume that protocols in their home country can be applied here.
He stressed: “There is a misunderstanding of the way things are done in Barbados versus the way things are done in their parent offices and this needs to be addressed. Barbados cannot become a satellite of anybody. So, the way of operating in Barbados has to be respected.”
Barbados TODAY contacted First Citizens’ Chief Executive Officer Carol Eleuthere-Jean Marie, to respond to the claims raised by Paul. She maintained that the bank has handled all aspects of the process “using strict guidelines and protocols from the Employment Rights Act”.
In relation to the non-disclosure agreement that workers were asked to sign, Eleuthere-Jean Marie explained that “employees were requested to sign standard confidentiality agreements in line with the nature of such matters. These confidentiality agreements made provisions for the employees to discuss the said contents with their union representative or attorney-at-law.”
The bank’s CEO insisted that given plans to expand other aspects of their operations in Barbados, more jobs will be created than the ones lost.
She told Barbados TODAY; “Our focus in negotiations is to be fair and objective in our approach in keeping with our objective of being the employer of choice in the financial services sector. Our discussions with the union have been productive thus far.
In restructuring and gearing our operations for expansion and efficiency, 19 new roles have been created, along with new branch locations in Coverley and very soon in Wildey, which is scheduled to be opened in July 2019.
“We have rationalised six roles, which have become redundant. So, in effect, we have expanded by a net increase of 13 jobs.”
She further noted that while the Government’s debt restructuring has hit their income statement and balance sheet over the last reporting period, the restructured “operations is strategic and long term in nature and designed to provide full-service locations to our clients and position our bank for growth”.