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Scores of Clico workers staged protest action in front of the Central Bank, Port-of-Spain, yesterday.
The protest was due to the bank’s three-day delay in responding to three issues raised by the union at a meeting on June 17 with the bank’s special advisor Neil Dingwall.
The union wanted to know what was the reason for the government’s decision to discontinue plans for Atrius’ operation. Atrius is the company the Government established to assume control of Clico’s traditional insurance portfolio. The union also sought details of the operational plan for Clico and the timeframe for VSEP negotiations.
The T&T Guardian was told by the Central Bank that it had sent a letter in response to the three concerns on July 2. However, the Banking, Insurance, and General Workers Union (BIGWU) which is representing the workers said it did not receive the letter.
Mario Als, secretary general of the union, said it had resorted to protest in a bid to “catalyse that response from the Central Bank.”
“They are willing to engage discussions and negotiate. What [the bank has] not done is to submit a specific proposal for the consideration of the workers and the union on the content of the VSEP offer. On Thursday, we got something from Clico indicating that they have the authority to engage in meaningful negotiations.
“They provided a skeletal framework of something, but it is not satisfactory with the workers and the union at all,” Als said. VSEP negotiations are expected to begin next Wednesday.
In a statement yesterday, the bank said it was not party to the VSEP negotiations between Clico and BIGWU.
It added, “Central Bank will, however, review and approve the final agreement on VSEP terms and conditions submitted by Clico's Board.”
A spokesman confirmed workers were officially informed of the plan to offer them voluntary separation a few days ago by the company's managing director.
Sources at Clico claimed VSEP was offered to the workers by the Central Bank on the basis of the recommendations of the Clico Board and recommendations of Carolyn John, managing director of Clico.
The T&T Guardian was told that Clico’s insurance agents were likely to be compensated for the loss of earnings they experienced as a result of the decision to stop selling Clico’s five interest-sensitive products about two months ago.
Contacted yesterday, a source at the Central Bank said some staff would be almost immediately rehired as the bank’s priority was to ensure traditional policyholders were not inconvenienced in any way.
“The core staff will continue to receive and process policyholders’ premiums, pay monthly pensions, honour health and life claims, and renew all group and health and life contracts,” the source added.
The next round of negotiations is scheduled for July 9.