Sun | Oct 24, 2021

NCB facing pushback from workers over vaccine mandate

Published:Wednesday | October 13, 2021 | 4:48 PM
Amid a deadly third wave of COVID infections, NCB, the island’s largest commercial bank, joins a growing list of private sector companies such as Digicel, Cari-Med, CVM-TV, QualCare Jamaica and Mother’s that recently implemented similar COVID policy. - Kenyon Hemans photo.

The National Commercial Bank (NCB) is facing pushback from employees over a new policy that requires them to either take the COVID-19 vaccine or submit weekly negative tests at their expense.

NCB employees will be required to “share” their vaccination cards with department heads by October 31 “as proof that they are either partially or fully vaccinated", the bank indicated.

The announcement was made in a memo circulated to staff yesterday over the signature of NCB Group President and CEO Patrick Hylton.

But Paul Stewart, chairman of the NCB Staff Association, fired back today, calling the bank's move premature.

“The premature imposing of compulsory vaccination would only serve to undermine confidence and trust in the management,” Stewart said in a memo to employees.

“We, therefore, will be requesting an urgent meeting to have the circular withdrawn so we can respectfully address the foregoing concerns,” he added, noting that the union wanted to maintain the cordial relationship with the bank while protecting the health and well-being of the staff.

Amid a deadly third wave of COVID infections, NCB, the island's largest commercial bank, joins a growing list of private sector companies such as Digicel, Cari-Med, CVM-TV, QualCare Jamaica and Mother's that recently implemented similar COVID policy.

The announcement by NCB comes days after Labour Minister Karl Samuda told The Gleaner that “there is no provision at the moment that enables a company to implement a mandatory requirement that people take the vaccine”.

NCB employees who are not vaccinated by October 31 will be required to submit a “legitimate” negative PCR COVID test – done at their expense – every Wednesday, starting November 3.

Unvaccinated employees who do not provide a current PCR test “and, consequently, are unable to attend work” will be required to take the days on which they are absent as unpaid leave, the memo said.

“We consulted with the NCB Staff Association and took their perspective into consideration,” Hylton's memo said.

While confirming that there was a meeting to discuss the policy, Stewart insisted that “at no time did the staff association agree to mandatory vaccination”.

Further, Stewart said the union was “surprised” by the request for weekly PCR tests at the expense of employees and the decision to treat the absence of non-compliant workers as unpaid leave.

“We had no discussions regarding any action to be taken against the staff if they were not vaccinated,” he said in a memo sent to his members today.

According to Stewart, the association has “several concerns” about the move to implement the policy and the likely impact on workers and would seek to raise those issues in the proposed talks.

Among the concerns, he said, was NCB's “willingness to accept liability if persons are forced to take the vaccine which leads to any negative reaction or death”.

Stewart said there are concerns, too, for employees who opt not to get inoculated because of their religious beliefs as well as those who refuse “based on the fact that there are insufficient clinical trials to determine its long-term effect”.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com

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