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BIGWU denies industrial action at bank
Bankers, Insurance and General Workers’ Union (BIGWU) deputy president Mario Als said yesterday rumours of industrial action at Republic Bank branches were false. “I doubt that any worker would be involved in that kind of subversive activity,” Als said in a telephone interview. He was responding to reports that unusually high numbers of bank employees had called in sick on Thursday.
Als made the distinction between industrial and protest action in a press release issued on same day: “Industrial action contemplates the union and/or workers taking action to compel the employer to meet or comply with a work or employment-related demand. No such demand has been made by the union,” wrote Als.
“The union and workers have been involved in protest actions designed to expose the way the bank treats workers. It is up to workers to determine when they are sick,” he added. Wage negotiations between BIGWU and Republic Bank will continue with a meeting next Wednesday.
Last week, the bank issued a pre-action protocol letter to BIGWU president Vincent Cabrera claiming libel and slander. The claims stemmed from Cabrera’s speech at May Day celebrations in Claxton Bay last month. In the speech, Cabrera said over 73 per cent of the Republic Bank salary bill went to 191 “fat cats,” while only 27 per cent was allocated to non-management workers.
Republic Bank has rejected this claim, saying the figures are opposite, with 77 per cent going to non-management workers. Cabrera said he gathered the information on the bank’s salary bill from the company records and wants the bank to prove him wrong. He said the union has responded to the letter through their attorneys asking the bank to publicly release records detailing the salary bill.
Cabrera added that the threat of legal action would not stop BIGWU from advocating for workers’ rights. Cabrera denied that the return of a Republic Bank 175th anniversary cake was a media stunt. He said the gift of cake and keychains from Republic Bank to the union was in poor taste. “We don’t want cake, we want a decent salary,” said Cabrera.
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