Union: Republic Bank unyielding on covid19 vaccination policy

Republic Bank's Rio Claro branch. File photo.
Republic Bank's Rio Claro branch. File photo.

THE Banking Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) on Thursday said Republic Bank Ltd has shown no signs of changing its policy on bringing employees physically back to work during the covid19 pandemic.

BIGWU second-vice president Jason Brown expressed this view the day after conciliation talks between the union and RBL at the Labour Ministry in Port of Spain, ended in a stalemate and the matter seemed to be heading to the Industrial Court.

In a statement on Thursday, RBL reiterated its commitment to what it called a balanced approach to bring employees physically back to work this month.

RBL made no comment on the talks at the Labour Ministry or any legal action with respect to the policy it announced last month on bringing its 2,900 employees back out to their offices.

Brown said after three hours of talks at the ministry on Wednesday, RBL was unyielding in its position. At the end of the meeting, Brown said the ministry said it will issue an unresolved trade dispute certificate to BIGWU on or before next Friday.

"On Friday, we will advise the court there is a dispute before it regarding this matter via the unresolved trade dispute certificate.

"From there, the court will advise parties on how it is we proceed."

Asked if this would cause RBL to put its policy on hold, Brown said, "I can't speak for the bank. The bank has shown no indication before since August 6, 2020, when this matter first emerged that they have any intention to compromise anything."

He said BIGWU previously filed a trade dispute with the ministry in accordance with the Industrial Relations Act and the ministry acknowledged this on August 27.

Apart from the policy on bringing employees back to work, Brown said, "Come next week Friday, the legal action will be intensified. The bank may have to answer to three matters at the Industrial Court."

He claimed the other two matters could involve alleged industrial relations offences by two senior RBL officials. In one case, Brown said the issue related to the official's alleged conduct on behalf of the bank.

The other, he said, concerned the alleged failure of this official to provide certain information requested by BIGWU on any alleged no-pay leave issued to employees during the pandemic.

In a statement, RBL said it"remains committed to ensuring that a balanced approach to our return to on-site work is taken as we seek to safeguard the well-being of all staff." RBL thanked "the over 2600 staff who have been vaccinated so far as we all do our part to support the country’s safe re-opening."

In a statement on August 19, RBL said it was committed to ensuring all its employees were able to safely return to their respective offices on September 6, in keeping with a statement made by the bank's managing director Nigel Baptiste in a signed internal memo on August 9.

RBL had earlier said in the absence of vaccination, early identification of covid19-positive cases in the workplace was vital to minimising the risk to vaccinated and unvaccinated people.

To this end, it said, "Mandatory PCR testing of unvaccinated staff, who represent a higher risk of contracting and spreading this disease, will be implemented from September 6."

On staff who were not yet vaccinated, the bank said it was committed to working with them in the intervening period to get their first doses and would continue to do so after September 6.


"Union: Republic Bank unyielding on covid19 vaccination policy"

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