ABWU wins landmark case

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The Antigua and Barbuda Workers Union (ABWU) has won the legal challenge it mounted against the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in 2013, on behalf of the workers at the financial institution.
The union had challenged a unilateral decision by the financial institution not to pass on negotiated increases to its employees who had reached the maximum salary scales in their respective categories.
The court handed down the judgement on Friday, February 12, 2018. The ABWU issued a press release on the matter yesterday.
According to the release, in its findings, the court held that between 1995 and 2004, RBC had accepted as settled practice a range of movements across the board for each year.
The ABWU said the ruling emphasised that “the departure from the practice in the circumstances, being a unilateral decision of the employer (RBC) as disclosed by the oral and documentary evidence, was contrary to good industrial practices.”
The court determined further that the RBC’s practice of one-time lump sum payments was “unacceptable” and resulted in what it termed “the masking of the employees’ true standard basic rate of pay and the creation of serious anomalies.”
David Massiah, general secretary of the ABWU, also explained that paying negotiated increases to all employees in the bargaining unit had been the established practice dating back over twenty years. 
However, in 2004, the RBC took a unilateral decision to discontinue the practice of across-the-board increases to all members of the bargaining unit.
Instead, it instituted a practice whereby a “one-time bonus payment” was granted to employees in instances where across-the-board percentage increases would have resulted in some salaries exceeding the maximum salary scale within the applicable range.
Massiah said the union took a dim view of this and contended that no lump-sum or bonus payment should be made following negotiated increases.
“In our considered opinion, irrespective of whether an employee reaches the maximum within his/her scale, all employees within the bargaining unit should benefit when salary increases take effect,” Massiah said in the statement.
The union took the matter to court in 2013, “almost 15 years after subsequent agreements between with RBC were concluded without the issue being settled.”
In a subsequent interview with our newsroom, ABWU’s general secretary said that he is quite pleased with the Industrial Court as he believes that the practice is in other establishments within the private sector.
Massiah also expressed the view that the ruling will have serious implications for employees in these entities as well.
“Where employees are at the top of their salary scale and are not getting the add-ons of the increases negotiated by the union, clearly those situations are going to end, we are going to challenge all of them,” Massiah told our newsroom.
Massiah said the union will have to determine exactly how many workers are affected in order to ascertain the total outstanding amounts to the employees, some of whom no longer work for RBC.
Joanne M. Massiah, Attorney-at-Law, Cindy Blanchard, industrial relations officer for the ABWU appeared on behalf of the employees.
RBC was represented by Andrea C. Roberts-Nicholas and Safiya Roberts, Attorneys-at-law at Roberts & Co.

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