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BIGWU, Republic settle on 14%
Republic Bank Limited and the Banking Insurance and General workers (BIGWU) have settled on a 14 per cent wage increase for 2500 clerical and supervisory staff for the period June 1, 2011, to May 31, 2014. “It was a long, arduous 18 months of negotiations”, said BIGWU president Vincent Cabrera during the official signing of the agreement yesterday at the Kapok Hotel, Maraval. Cabrera said the union was happy for the resolution, but there had been challenges that hindered the process.
He said BIGWU submitted a proposal to the Bank on May 2011 and the process began on August 4, 2011, but negotiations broke down on July 16, 2011 over the cost of items- salary and COLA—leading parties to make a joint application to the Ministry of Labour for conciliatory assistance. “It was a very difficult process because we were of the view that the bank’s behaviour demonstrated that capital was more superior than labour. In relation to the entire labour market, we observe that the financial sector has the greatest level of inequality,” he said.
Cabrera said Republic Bank is one of the most robust bank in the country and probably in the region and they never made representation they could not have afforded to pay the proposed increase. He said the union's initial proposal was 21 per cent. “While we know they could have afforded this figure, BIGWU is still positive about the 14 per cent, but circumstances being what they were, we settled on what we considered to be the best arrangement in the particular circumstances.”
He said BIGWU cannot deal with t inequality with one negotiation, but on an incremental basis and was looking forward to the bank's cooperation. He suggested that the bank involve the union in more decision making, as there are other issues negotiations cannot address. Mario Als, BIGWU’s deputy president, said some employees were accused of engaging in illegal industrial action during the 18 months of negotiations. But he said the union was confident both parties would have cordial discussions and bring those issues to a speedy resolution since there was positive commitment on both sides.
Stephanie Fingal, Republic Bank’s industrial relations manager said: “The bank pays utmost respect to its employees and we value them highly. The bank and the union were able to bring resolution to the negotiations, which signal the bank's commitment to the process of collective bargaining in the interest of meeting with expectations. “We continue in that vein and look forward to the years ahead.”
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