Sat | Jun 6, 2020

IDT rules in favour of BOJ in vacation leave dispute

Published:Friday | May 22, 2020 | 12:25 AMEdmond Campbell/Senior Staff Reporter

The Industrial Disputes Tribunal (IDT) has sided with the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) in a long-standing dispute with the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union (BITU) over a change in the bank’s vacation leave policy, over which the union has expressed strong objection.

In its ruling, the three-member panel of the IDT said that it did not support the union’s contention that the staff had been left in a worse position as there was no reduction in their leave entitlement or emoluments.

Further, the tribunal said it was not presented with any evidence to show that the bank was in breach of any of the guidelines of the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service on leave entitlement.

In 2015, adjustments were made to the central bank’s vacation leave policy. The union rejected the move, and the matter was referred to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security for conciliation, and, subsequently, to the IDT for adjudication.

After an extended period of deliberations, the IDT handed down its award on May 5, detailing that the adjustments made in the BOJ’s vacation leave policy in 2015 with regard to the accumulation of vacation leave should stand.

The central bank was represented by attorneys-at-law Patrick Foster, QC, and Ayana Thomas. BITU Vice-President Rudolph Thomas represented the bank’s employees.

Rudolph Thomas, in his submission, said that in 2015, the bank and the union were engaged in discussions on vacation leave.

He said that during those discussions, the bank invited members of the Combined Delegates’ Council to a presentation titled ‘Proposed Change Accumulation of Vacation Leave’.

According to the BITU’s Thomas, the delegates raised concerns about the proposal to reduce the maximum accumulated vacation leave, the monetary value of which employees were able to use to meet payments such as mortgage and insurance. He also stated that at the point of instituting the change, the workers had voiced their disagreement.

Responding to the union’s concerns, Foster said that the bank made no attempt to adjust the workers’ entitlement to vacation leave. He said that the institution amended certain aspects of the vacation leave policy in relation to the accumulation of leave, which the workers were, and still, are entitled to monetise.

FINANCIAL STRAIN ON BOJ

Foster explained that before the change in policy, an employee could accumulate leave up to 90 days. Further, the worker would get pay for any leave in excess of 90 days.

According to Foster, this arrangement resulted in huge leave balances, with a cash value of more than $1.69 billion, and it was felt that it would be a financial strain on the institution.

In addition, the central bank’s legal team argued that vacation leave was not being used for the purpose intended, which was for rest and rejuvenation.

The bank’s new policy allowed employees to accumulate leave up to 45 days instead of the previous 90.

The IDT concluded that there was no change to the leave entitlement, that is, the number of days to which the employee is entitled.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com