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RBL Head Office, Park Street, Port-of-Spain.

The Banking Insurance and General Workers’ Union (BIGWU) will meet with Republic Bank Limited (RBL) this week in an effort to resolve the current impasse relating to its return to work policy.

If they are unable to agree on a policy position for vaccinated and unvaccinated employees, BIWGU said it will move ahead with legal proceedings to prevent RBL from unilaterally implementing any new terms and conditions to the existing collective agreement.

BIGWU’s second vice president Jason Brown yesterday said they had received a request from RBL to meet to resume discussions on the matter. He said to protect the interests of the bank’s 3,060 employees, both parties will meet around the table.

BIGWU had issued an ultimatum to RBL last Friday to withdraw its proposed return to work policy by 10 am yesterday, or the union would commence legal proceedings to restrain them from altering the terms and conditions of work. RBL’s response was sent around 8 am yesterday.

Last week, Brown urged the bank’s negotiating team to resume discussions in good faith.

“Litigation is a course that the union does not want to pursue but will do so if it is compelled to do so by the bank’s intransigence,” he said.

Last Wednesday, BIGWU advised RBL employees to resist attempts by management to alter their terms and conditions of work. The union accused the bank of disregarding ongoing discussions with them and attempting to unilaterally change the existing terms and conditions contrary to good industrial relations practices.

The bank, which is aiming to have its entire workforce back out by September 1, has sought to introduce new policies along with incentives for vaccinated and unvaccinated staff. This includes compelling workers who are not vaccinated to undergo PCR testing at $2,400 a month to enter the bank’s premises.

Brown has previously argued that a return to the workplace should not be vaccine dependent only, but be on the basis that the actual workplace can safely accommodate the necessary distancing between workers, as both vaccinated and unvaccinated may contract and spread the virus. He said the introduction of a mandatory PCR test is a new condition of work which ought to be discussed and agreed to with the union before it is enforced.

In its letter to RBL last Friday, BIGWU demanded that the bank immediately withdraw the proposed policy ahead of resuming discussions with the union.

The union disagrees with RBL’s proposed policy that workers pay (in part or in full) for PCR tests; the quantum of the ex-gratia payment offered to vaccinated workers; the threat or use of disciplinary action to influence compliance with the policy; and wider issues involving unilateral implementation of the new terms and conditions the policy promotes, inclusive but not limited to fundamental breaches of contract.