Workers of Republic Bank Tunapuna Branch have scored a victory against their employer, Republic Bank Ltd, over the workers’ refusal to work after a manager tested COVID-19 positive last year, and the company issued warning letters and docked their pay in response.
A release from the workers’ trade union representatives, the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU), reports that the Ministry of Labour found in favour of the workers, and the bank is now required to expunge the warning letters from the workers’ files, and pay back the deducted salary either on or before July’s end.
“This victory belongs to the tenacity of the workers and the faithful shop stewards at RBL Tunapuna Branch, whose actions stayed consistent with the precise advice provided by the Union, and which ultimately kept them safe and well protected not only from a hazardous virus but also from a vindictive act of intimidation,” the release from BIGWU said.
The following is the full text of the BIGWU statement on the matter…
On the 10th of December 2021, the workers of Republic Bank Tunapuna Branch discovered that their manager contracted COVID-19 but was physically in and around most of their workstations in the building before being officially diagnosed and sent on confinement.
The shop stewards approached the Bank seeking to have the premises shut down and properly sanitised for the health and safety of themselves and the customers, but the Bank refused, forcing the workers to evacuate the building and refusing to work in the unsafe environment.
Mr. Jason Brown, the 2nd Vice President of the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) guided the workers to cover themselves legally under section 15, 16 and 17 of the OHSA and immediately contacted the Bank to secure the protection of the workers.
However, the Bank never responded, leaving the 23 workers to languish in the car park (basement) of the building for the entire day.
On the 26th of January 2022, without any prior discussions, the Bank issued warning letters to all the workers of the Tunapuna Branch and advised them that they will be deducting that day from their salary and then proceeded to do so.
The Union immediately wrote to the Bank and advised if the warning letters were not withdrawn and the workers not repaid, that the Bank would face legal action, but the Bank stood firm in their decision.
The matter was referred to the Ministry of Labour and the workers were again represented by Mr. Brown, who used the provisions of the OHSA and the Bank’s own failures in his arguments. The Bank capitulated and advised the Ministry that the warning letters will be expunged from the workers files and the salary deducted will be repaid to the workers on or before the end of July 2022 and signed off a Memorandum of Agreement to that effect.
This victory belongs to the tenacity of the workers and the faithful shop stewards at RBL Tunapuna Branch, whose actions stayed consistent with the precise advice provided by the Union, and which ultimately kept them safe and well protected not only from a hazardous virus but also from a vindictive act of intimidation.