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posted 18 Jul 2012, 20:32 by Gerry Kangalee   [ updated 19 Jul 2012, 02:48 by Dave Smith ]

One year after the contract period began and after twenty meetings with the Banking Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU), Republic Bank Ltd. (RBL), on July 17th 2012, referred the negotiations between parties, to the Ministry of Labour for conciliation.  The struggle by the twenty five hundred workers of Republic Bank has, therefore, gone to a new stage.

If the ministry’s effort at conciliation fails, the law provides a one week window within which, RBL can lock out the workers, BIGWU can call a strike or the negotiations can be referred to the Industrial Court. (Industrial Relations Act Sections 59 and 60)

The negotiations struggle has been marked by growing militancy of the workers in the face of the lack of movement by RBL. The bank is offering 10% over three years; the union is demanding 19%.

The workers have rejected what they consider mamaguy gestures by the Bank to celebrate one hundred and seventy five years of operation in T&T. They have rejected the company’s gifts of cup cakes and of jerseys and have demanded a fair wage.

There have been two candlelight vigils/demonstrations to show the bank the depth of the workers’ disgust with the indifference of their bosses to their struggle to maintain a decent standard of living and a civilised lifestyle.

Now, Republic Bank is the largest and most important bank in the country with assets, in 2011, of over $47 billion and customers’ deposits of $33 billion and profits after taxation of $1.1 billion.

Yet this overweight conglomerate has the gall to tell its workers in a letter to Mario Als, BIGWU Deputy
President, dated July 16th 2012 by Industrial Relations Manager Stephanie Fingal: “to grant the increases you proposed will be unsustainable for the Bank…” Unbelievable!

In a letter dated July 16th from Als to Fingal, the veteran trade unionist pointed out that over the last five years Republic Bank’s profit after tax has been in the billion dollar vicinity; the bank settled with the union for the preceding three year period for 18%; independent management compensation information suggested that increases in salary for executive/senior management was in the vicinity of 6% per year over the period 2009-2012 (editor’s note: if base salary is added to other cash benefits some managers may rake in close to $4 million per year).

So, what has changed over the last couple years that has Republic Bank management adopting such an obdurate position? What has changed is that the government now controls more than 70% of Republic Bank shares because of its takeover of the CL group which added to its holdings of shares through NIB, Unit Trust and First Citizens. (See Republic Bank Annual Report 2011 page 10).

Maybe Republic Bank workers are closer to their comrades at First Citizens than they thought. After all, “Ten Million Dollar Larry” is now calling the shots

Gerry Kangalee
Gerry Kangalee,
18 Jul 2012, 20:32
Gerry Kangalee,
18 Jul 2012, 20:44
Gerry Kangalee,
18 Jul 2012, 20:41
Gerry Kangalee,
18 Jul 2012, 20:42