TTRNA to appeal Industrial Court ruling
The T&T Registered Nurses Association (TTRNA) intends to appeal its defeat in a trade dispute with the South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) over its effort to recover $34,000 from a registered nurse who exceeded her annual leave entitlement.
Following the decision, late last month, the TTRNA retained attorney Martin George to advise it on appealing the Industrial Court decision.
In the decision, the Essential Services Division (ESD) of the Industrial Court, comprising chairman Larry Achong and members Michelle Austin and Andrew Stroude, rejected the association’s trade dispute brought on behalf of Desiree Sealey.
According to evidence in the case, the dispute arose in January 2019, when the SWRHA attempted to recover the overpayment to Sealey by making an initial $1,429.83 deduction from her salary. The overpayment stemmed from Sealey taking 134 days in sick, casual, and vacation leave after exhausting her leave during her first 12 months of employment in 2012.
The association claimed Sealey was not informed of the move before the initial deduction. It also alleged that the SWRHA could have used part of its human resource policy, which would have allowed Sealey to retroactively cover the additional days with her vacation leave and extended sick leave entitlements, which she attained after 12 months of continuous service.
In the written decision, Industrial Court Judge Austin ruled that the SWRHA did not act unreasonably or improperly when it sought to recoup the overpayment. She also rejected the association’s claims about notice as she pointed out that the SWRHA had informed Sealey of its intention in 2013 despite taking the action several years later.
While the SWRHA essentially won the trade dispute, Austin criticised it for failing to address the issue with Sealey before she accumulated the uncertified days.
“The failure to address the matter with the worker earlier and perhaps more decisively, however, combined with the continued taking of leave by the worker—leave to which she was not entitled due to the ineligibility brought by the failure to make one-year continuous service, had something of a snowball effect,” Austin said.
She also said the SWRHA and the association should have held discussions over a payment plan which would be “least burdensome” for Sealey.
As part of its decision, the panel gave the parties until August 30 to agree on a payment schedule. If there is no agreement, the panel will decide on the schedule.
By: Nicole Drayton