National Commercial Bank Jamaica Ltd v National Commercial Bank Jamaica Ltd Staff Association

 
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Industrial Disputes Tribunal

Swaby, C.

No. 38 of 1977

National Commercial Bank Jamaica Ltd.
and
National Commercial Bank Jamaica Ltd. Staff Association

Labour law - Industrial disputes — Wage increases.

1

Reference:

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The Honourable Minister of Labour by letter dated September 28 th 1977 in accordance with Section 11 of the Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Act 1975, refereed to the Tribunal for settlement the dispute between the BANK and its Staff Association.

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The Terms of Reference were as follows:

“To determine and settle the dispute between National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited (formerly Barclays Bank of Jamaica Limited) on the one hand, and the National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited Staff Association (formerly Barclays Bank of Jamaica Limited Staff Association) on the other hand, over the claim, for salary increases for the categories of employees of the Bank represented by the Staff Association having regard to the Staff Association's claim for salary increases and the Bank's offer.”

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The division of the Tribunal selected in accordance with Section 8(2) of the Act to deal with the dispute was:

Mr. William H. Swaby — Chairman

Mr. A.Z. Preston — Employer's Representative.

Mr. John Forrest — Employees Representative.

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The BANK was represented by:

Mr. Emile George, Q.C. instructed by Mr. G. Reid of Messrs. Myers, Fletcher & Gordon Manton & Hart

Mr. D. Longmire

Mr. D. Banks

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The TRADE UNION was represented by:

The Rt. Hon Hugh L. Shearer, P.C.

Mr. D. McFarlane

Mr. H. Russell

Mr. T. Golding

Mr. A. Grant

Submissions and Sittings:

Written briefs were submitted by the parties and oral submissions made at nine sittings held between the 4th of October 2nd December 1977.

The dispute between the Bank and the Staff Association over increases in the salary scales of certain clerical and managerial members of staff, the majority of whom are, represented by the Association, a registered Trade Union, for the two year period 1/7/76-30/6/78 which the Staff Association by letter of the 21st April 1977 requested the Bank to pay and the Bank's counter proposal thereto, the Bank having recognised the Staff Association as representing the majority of staff. There was no prior collective agreement between the Bank and the Staff Association or any of Union on behalf of its employees regarding salaries.

The salary scales proposed by the parties are set out in the columns numbered 2 and 5 respectively on each of the four pages of the attached schedule hereto (numbered 1) to which further references will later be made.

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The Staff Association submitted that the scales in column 5 proposed by the Association were the minimum scales that the Tribunal should award the employees over the two-year period 1/7/76-30/6/78 on the grounds that:

  • (1) the rates allow only minimum improvements in living standards over the period;

  • (2) the new rates would be less than the rates in reputable businesses which are up for further revision;

  • (3) the rates are the minimum acceptable for the period based on the skill and responsibility of the jobs

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and they further submitted that the Bank's offer is inadequate and unacceptable on the grounds that the offer:

  • (a) creates grave anomalies

  • (b) does not take into account adequate revision of the incremental rate where this applies

  • (c) does not allow for any improvement in living standards

  • (d) completely disregards the relevance of their submissions at 1-3 above

  • (e) would establish rates below the proper value of the jobs

  • (f) would greatly affect the efficiency of the Bank.

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Concerning the Bank's counter proposals regarding the these salary scales set out in column 2. of the attached schedule (No. l) it was submitted on the Bank's behalf that not only were they the maximum permissible within the Government's Wage and Salary Guidelines in Ministry Papers 55 of 1975, 12 of 1976 and 13, 27 and 38 of 1977, but they in fact went outside the Guidelines for although the Bank had agreed that the salaries would be paid retroactively to July 1, 1976 it had used the date May 1, 1977 as the relevant date for calculating the cost of living increases both in relation to the consumer price indices and in relation to existing salaries, to the advantage of the employees. This offer was for a two-year contract which would involve an increase of. $10 a week for the first year and a further $10 a week for the second year.

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On the question of the comparability of salaries, it was also submitted that the Bank was prepared to consider any argument by the Staff Association on this ground, but with the limitation as set out in the Guidelines that comparability of work should be considered only in relation to the levels of compensation being paid by other employers in similar types of businesses, namely, in the instant case, the banking sector, but it could not compare itself with businesses outside the banking sector.

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The Bank it was further submitted was anxious and willing to do all in its power to assist it's staff to achieve as high a standard of living as possible but it could only do so within the limits of its own financial capabilities and what was reasonable and fair. As a responsible financial institution it could not flagrantly act in contravention or in breach of the wage and salary guidelines laid down by the Government for the economic survival of the country from its present financial crisis.

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Mr. Shearer dealing with the Staff Association's submission said, inter alia, that he wished from the outset of the proceedings to stress that the dispute was only as regards the quantum of the increases, in the salary scales to be given by the Bank to its staff and as to the exclusion of certain members of the managerial staff from being given any increases at all to their present salaries. The Bank's proposals, he said, were based on the cost of living increase using, January 1, 1973 as the base, although the guidelines stated that the base should be December 31, 1972. He conceded that the Bank by taking January 1, 1973 as the base had done so to the Staff's advantage seeing they had got an increase of salary on January 1, 1973 which had not been deducted from the increases as provided in the formula in guidelines. He said that the Association rejected the Wage and Salaries Guidelines because:

(a) by tying wage adjustments only to the cost of living, the salary increases given by the Bank for 1976-77 would be tantamount to restoring only the 1973 salaries and standard of living, and nothing more;

(b) the guideline formula assumed a precision and accuracy for the cost-of-living indices over the years for which they could not vouch;

(c) all the evidence pointed to the fact that the cost of living was still continuing to rise as the index for July 1977 showed it was now 131, and the wage value had depreciated to 106% so that to give an adjustment of only that amount, the purchasing values of the wages would be back to only the 1973 levels.

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Mr Shearer urged us not to follow the Wage and Salary Guidelines which he submitted had no legal validity — although certain sanctions flowed from certain breaches by the Prices Commission, and were therefore binding on the Tribunal. He further urged us to go outside them so as to fix what he described as reasonable salaries so that the employees would have something left over, however small, to try and improve their standard of living. The new rates would be even less than the rates being paid by reputable businesses which were up for revision. He tendered a list of the salaries being paid to clerks by Seprods, Jamaica Public Service Co. Ltd., Jamaica Telephone Co. Ltd., Goodyear, Caribbean Steel Co. Ltd., and Victoria Mutual Building Society (Exhibit 2) and invited us to compare them with those offered by the Bank for what he said were similar posts, but no comparative list of duties were submitted for our inspection and consideration. Mr. Shearer asked us to reject the Bank's contention that comparability should follow the clause relating to comparability set out in the Guidelines restricting the fixing of salary scales similar to those in similar businesses, in this case, the banking sector, where he contended disgraceful conditions of employment existed, this being due in great measure to the fact that there were no union contracts. He urged us to be influenced by the nature of the job in a type of employment that is different from many of the cases in which negotiations had previously taken place. Banking, he said, was a job of special skill and responsibility, a job which taxes the judgment, a job involving risk investment and requiring on the part of the employee a capacity for proper assessment of the individual for both the client's abilities and other qualities.

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We were invited by him to look at certain anomalies that would be crated in the salaries offered by the Bank both in relation to rates in other businesses and in relation to its own structure e.g. between supervisory and managerial staff for the reason that the Bank by following — the Wage and Salary Guidelines...

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