Trade union takes ‘bank-account’ challenge to Privy Council

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Justice Alice Yorke-Soo Hon.

SANCTUARY Workers Trade Union has received the permission of the Court of Appeal to challenge at the Privy Council a decision by the Registration, Recognition and Certification Board (RRCB) to deny a former bank worker access to the Industrial Court because the union did not have a bank account.

On Monday, Justices of Appeal Alice Yorke-Soo Hon, Mira Dean-Armorer and Malcolm Holdip granted Sanctuary Workers and ex-bank worker Mitoonal Persad conditional leave to go to the Privy Council.

At Monday’s hearing, attorneys for the RRCB objected to conditional leave being granted on the grounds that it raised no issue of public importance.

However, this was overruled by the judges.

The trade union and the ex-bank worker are challenging a decision of the Appeal Court in September in favour of the RRCB.

In an oral decision, Justices of Appeal Gregory Smith, Malcolm Holdip and Vasheist Kokaram ruled that High Court Judge Joan Charles was wrong when she upheld the union’s and Persad’s lawsuit. Persad wanted to challenge his dismissal from the bank. However, in November 2019, the Ministry of Labour issued a certificate of unresolved dispute and referred the issue of whether Persad was in good financial standing with the union to the board.

Persad and the union sued the board after it ruled that Persad was not in good standing because the union did not have a bank account.

In her ruling, Charles said there was no requirement under the Industrial Relations Act for a union to have a bank account.

She said Section 34(3) of the Industrial Relations Act (IRA) provides that the RRCB should be satisfied that a union followed sound accounting practices and that the worker had made union contributions at least two months before initiating a trade dispute to find that a worker is in good standing.

Charles ruled that the IRA did not give the board the power to create regulations altering the terms of Section 34.

She also ruled that the board acted unfairly by making the decision without giving the Persad and the union an opportunity to be heard.

In allowing the RRCB’s appeal, Smith, who delivered the decision, said the evidence in the case did not support the judge’s conclusion on the RRCB’s policy.

Persad and the trade union are represented by King’s Counsel Anand Beharrylal, Kiel Taklalsingh and Stefan Ramkissoon while Coreen Findley appeared for the RRCB.