The Guyana Trades Union Congress is unhappy with the latest developments as it relates to CLICO (Guyana) and says that the company’s decision to terminate the services of employees as well as to close branches is cause for public concern.
Acting General Secretary of the GTUC, Norris Witter at a press conference
yesterday called on various sections of the population to work together with the union movement as it intends to address the needs of the workers. He said that contrary to promises given, employees have had their services terminated and branches of the company have been closed.
Witter stated that the situation has now become a “national issue” and added that it was not just the employees or those that had investments in the company that were being affected. He said that the GTUC had been waiting on the revelation of Judicial Manager Maria van Beek’s report to the courts before convening a meeting with her but the latest developments have prompted the union to take immediate action.
GTUC President Gillian Burton, meanwhile, said that is was unfortunate that the employees of CLICO were being “held at the mercy of a system” and said that the country may be experiencing what can be described as a collapse in industrial relations.
She said that severance packages have been promised to these employees in the midst of much economic uncertainty, especially as it related to the payment of severance packages and other benefits.
Peter Ramsaroop, Chair-man of Vision Guyana, was also at the press conference yesterday and said that his organisation is willing to partner with trade unions to get to the bottom of this issue and also to help develop an economic plan that will help nation. He too accused the authorities of being less than forthright with the public as they dealt with this particular issue.
Meanwhile, both the Lamaha and Irving streets branches of the local CLICO company were yesterday closed as the agents who were previously housed at these branches were relocated to the company’s Head Office on Camp Street. However, Stabroek News was informed that not many of these agents reported to work yesterday.
When Stabroek News visited the Head Office yesterday, it was informed that only a few of the agents had turned out to work and that many of them were now seriously contemplating their futures. When this newspaper spoke to some of these agents, they made it clear that they were only at work primarily because of their clients and they made it clear that they were not happy with the current situation. These agents have not been paid their commissions since January and have no idea when they will be paid.
According to one agent, several agents earn at least $100,000 in monthly commissions.
This agent told Stabroek News that due to the withholding of these payments, he was unable to meet his mortgage payments and had to negotiate with the bank concerning this. He said that fortunately he has been given a grace period.
The workers said that they were not provided with further information from either CEO of the company Geeta Singh-Knight or its Judicial Manager van Beek. According to this agent, during the meeting with the CEO on Wednesday, she told the agents that they will be paid eventually. An announcement which clearly did not go down well with the agents, he said.
On Wednesday, several employees of CLICO were issued with letters terminating their service. Stabroek News understands that in excess of 40 employees have now lost their jobs. These former employees have been promised severance packages.
Meanwhile efforts by Stabroek News to contact van Beek yesterday again proved futile.
CLICO (Guyana) came under judicial management after CLICO (Bahamas) was put into liquidation. The Bahamas company held 53% of the Guyana company’s assets and this put its liquidity position under enormous strain. It is unclear whether it would be able to retrieve any part of its Bahamas assets but the government here has said that no current policyholder will lose out.
The GTUC, meanwhile, will be hosting a special meeting on Monday afternoon where it is intends to charter a way forward on the CLICO matter. He said that he was inviting all persons affected by the CLICO crisis as well as members of the general public to attend this meeting, since the issue has now become a national one. The meeting will be held in the auditorium of the Critchlow Labour College and is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.