THE Government has employed the services of Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Zolfo Coopers, world-renowned specialists in law and financial restructuring, to examine the proposals with respect to CLICO.
Finance Minister Larry Howai made this statement yesterday in an e-mail in the face of a protest by CLICO and British American workers over the formation of Atrius and severance pay. About 57 CLICO/British American placard-bearing employees protested yesterday outside the Ministry of Finance, Eric Williams Finance Building, Independence Square, Port of Spain.
Cabinet has approved the transfer of about $8 billion worth of insurance giant’s CLICO’s profitable business to a new company called Atrius which will be 100 per cent owned by the State.
Vincent Cabrera, president general of the Banking, Insurance and General Workers’ Union (BIGWU), who was at yesterday’s protest, accused Howai of “a dereliction of duty” with regard to the operations of the new corporate entity Atrius. He said there is a board in place but it has not been operationalised.
Cabrera was joined at the protest by BIGWU CLICO Branch president Roxanne Cuffy, education and research officer Alva Alleyne and assistant general Secretary Hayden Hernandez.
Cuffy spoke about the runaround to access loans by employees to purchase homes and cars since there has been an erosion of confidence by the banks and other lending agencies.
Via a telephone interview later, Cabrera said: “In May 5, 2013 , there was a demonstration. Howai did call us in, we can’t wait anymore.We don’t want them to announce the new company. We feel it is Government’s responsibility to tell us about it. The management has been established but it has not been operationalised. In the meantime, no one is getting any benefits. We have been told it in the hands of the government.”
Sharing her views on Atrius, Cuffy said: “We are told they (Government) have a plan. They are not acting on the plans they told us about. They were going to start Atrius. We have the same predicament. We want to be able to properly plan our lives. It is affecting everyone from clerks to managers.”
Cuffy said: “Since 2008, we have been working for the same 2008 salaries. There have been no increases. It has not been signed. We understand the Atrius Company has to be registered under the Insurance Act.”
Cuffy added: “We want them to take us out of limbo because we can’t make major life and financial decisions. A lot of people have left and the workload is on those who have tried to stay loyal. It has been burdensome. We are tired about waiting to make major financial decisions. We need for Howai to come clean about the company, salaries and severance.”
In his e-mail statement, Howai said: “Because of the complexity of the matter, Government has decided the services of international experts should be introduced to review the structure of the proposals which had been developed by the Finance Ministry. The final report has been received and reviewed by Cabinet. A number of changes are being negotiated and finalised with relevant stakeholders.”
“While this matter can impact significantly on governments fiscal position, we must be mindful that the operations of CLICO fall directly under the supervision of the Central Bank of Trinidad and Tobago - as per (Section 44) of the Central Bank Act—and the Ministry of Finance and the Economy is charged more properly with providing a supportive role in reconciling the matter.”
Howai said he was optimistic the matter will be resolved by early 2014.