VIRUS CONCERN

VIRUS CONCERN: A woman walks past Republic Bank’s Park Street branch in Port of Spain yesterday where employees refused to work for about three hours out of concern that the premises has not been sanitised.

—Photo: curtis chase

SCARED that a customer who they claimed tested positive with COVID-19 this week may have contaminated their work space, staff of Republic Bank’s Park Street branch yesterday refused to start work until management assured them the location was properly sanitised.

The bank was scheduled to open at 8 a.m. yesterday, but this did not happen until close to 11 a.m.

When the Express visited the branch at 11 a.m, a few customers were inside transacting business.

When enquiries were made about speaking to someone on the reason for the late opening, Susan Torry—general manager of group marketing and communications—said the bank “had a late start today and it is now opened to customers”.

Torry did not confirm or deny when asked if this was because of a possible COVID-19 scare.

One bank employee, almost in tears, claimed that someone who tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday was in the branch last week Thursday and on Monday.

The employee said the man returned from Guyana last week but did not display any flu-like symptoms and transacted business with RBL tellers and customer service representatives.

“We are scared and upset by how management is handling the situation. Banks need to be closed as well, not just schools, bars and cinemas. We are at risk and this situation is very serious,” said the worker.

When contacted about the development, Republic Bank managing director Nigel Baptiste said he had nothing more to add to what the Torry had told the Express earlier.

BIGWU concerned

Second vice-president of the Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) Jason Brown confirmed on Wednesday the union was alerted by senior RBL staff about the infected customer.

“The bank would have taken the decision to send home the three employees who the customer was in direct contact with. The union’s objective was not to shut down any branch of the bank. It was to protect the workers. I called a senior person in the bank yesterday (Wednesday) and alerted him to what had happened,” Brown told the Express during a telephone interview yesterday.

He said he requested that the senior official ensure that the bank was thoroughly sanitised.

“His response was ‘will do’,” Brown said.

“At the same time, I sent an instruction to the workers of the branch that they are not to go into the branch until they are satisfied that it has been thoroughly sanitised and they are not exposing themselves unduly to any hazardous risk. The assurance they were looking for was that the bank hired cleaning services and that they worked overnight, employing Lysol sanitisers, steam-cleaning the carpet and so on. But they couldn’t do that because all that was done was the normal wiping down and spraying Lysol in the air,” he said.

An employee of the branch said it was only after Baptiste and two other senior managers were called into the branch to speak to staff that staff agreed to start work for the day and the branch was opened.

Brown claimed a similar COVID-19 scare occurred at RBL San Juan earlier this week.

“But because only a few workers refused to work the branch stayed open. The problem with that is that they have now exposed themselves to infection and they could take it home to their families,” he stated.

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