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The RBTT dilemma

The TAWU-led striking workers at RBTT bank which is now under new controllers

A senior Grenadian lawyer has expressed concerns with the strike action taken by the Grenada Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) on the RBTT issue.

The lawyer who spoke to THE NEW TODAY is fearful that the union got the employees to take industrial action without a full understanding of the law pertaining to change of ownership among businesses in the private sector.

RBC Financial Caribbean had informed the union in 2020 that it was selling its Operations in the Eastern Caribbean which includes RBTT Grenada Limited.

According to the union, this move has given rise to the issue of the right of the workers to exercise the option to be terminated and receive Severance pay in keeping with the Collective Labour Agreement between the Bank and TAWU.

A commercial bank in Antigua has purchased the controlling shares in RBTT which is located in an area known as “Wall Street” in Grand Anse.

The seasoned attorney-at-law said the issue at stake is the interpretation of Section 45 (2) of the Employment Act of Grenada and suggested that TAWU might have misconstrued the legislation.

He said the fact of the matter is that the company has not changed from doing the business of banking and is doubtful that the RBTT workers can trigger Section 45 of the act as there is a distinction in law of what has actually taken place with the local financial institution.

He pointed out that the fundamental principle in law is that in order to buy a business one has to buy the assets and liabilities of the business.

“If I just buy the majority shares of the company that owns the business or all of the shares of the company that owns the business, I have not bought the business, I have bought controlling interest of the company that owns the business,” he said.

The lawyer indicated that Section 45 of the Employment act cannot be triggered by the union and the employees in such a situation.

He said: “So they can’t ask for no redundancy and termination allowance – there is no option. The option in 45 does not arise because the business was not sold, the banking business continues under the company. Because I bought controlling interest of the company I can change its name because I have control over management and policy direction of the company. I won it. That is what has taken place in the RBTT/RBC situation.”

Labour Minister Peter David has ruled in favour of TAWU and the workers of RBTT Grenada Limited in the current impasse.

The minister agreed with the Union’s position that because the Bank has been sold, the workers have the right to exercise the option to either be terminated and receive termination allowances or continue with the new employer(s).

The workers and the union have resorted to industrial action as the Antiguan bank is about to take charge of RBTT.

The attorney has also challenged the ruling of the Minister David on the issue in favour of TAWU.

He said: “The bank wasn’t sold – it’s the shares in the bank. A bank is characterised by banking business but banks are owned and held by companies. Companies under law are separate persons to an individual person. Individual persons may own companies and that is why there is safety in incorporating a company as the liability of the company is not the liability of the incorporator.

“So if owner of a company has one house and three cars and the company has six buses and ten trucks and the company ends up in litigation where it has to pay out a liability, the house and three cars can’t be part of that because you are not sued – it’s the company that is sued and it is a separate person.

“What was bought here was ownership or majority or complete shares and direct controlling interest in the company that owns the bank. The banking business was not bought or sold – they are getting confused with name change and takeover. What you had was a takeover in corporate law… that’s not the sale of a business”.