We now know more on that BTC & Elizabeth Thompson dispute

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PRESS RELEASE: ELIZABETH THOMPSON SEPARATION FROM BTC

BTC officials today sought to clarify its position on the separation of Elizabeth Thompson today, amid a range of statements and commentary regarding the actions of the company.

BTC noted that as a matter of policy, it does not seek to engage in public debate on industrial or employee matters. However, the company noted that when deemed appropriate, it will seek to clarify public misstatements and inaccuracies that mischaracterize the company’s position.

The company pointed out that decisions to disengage any staff member are always matters that are approached with the utmost level of discernment and gravity. BTC stated that it will not now or ever seek to disengage staff for trite or unjustifiable reasons, but rather for grave and very substantial reasons which go to the root of the employment relationship.

Elizabeth Thompson

Ms. Elizabeth Thompson was dismissed by BTC on October 22nd 2012. In full accordance with the law and with the governing industrial agreement between the BCPMU (BTC’s Management Union) and BTC, the company elected to dismiss Ms. Thompson with the full payment which is due, in lieu of notice. The company elected this approach under the Employment Act, notwithstanding the numerous grave breaches committed by Ms. Thompson which go to the root of the employment relationship, so as to separate amicably with Ms. Thompson, and Ms. Thompson has been fully compensated in accordance with law for her years of service at BTC.

BTC notes in summary that arising from the actual behavior and acts in question, the key rationale for the dismissal stems from an abject and complete loss in confidence in Ms. Thompson’s ability to effectively carry out her job responsibilities. Ms. Thompson was engaged at BTC in her professional capacity as Counsel and Attorney-at-law. In this capacity she carries a responsibility not to place herself in any actual or apparent fundamental conflicts of interest with the interests of the company. This principle is entirely consistent with, amongst other things, the Bahamas Bar Associations’ Code of Professional Conduct for Attorneys.

BTC notes that unfortunately, over the last two years, the company witnessed a consistent and repeated pattern of behavior and actions on the part of Ms. Thompson that were entirely contrary to the fundamental interests and goals of the company, and which were inconsistent with her defined role and responsibilities. In one of the very numerous instances, the company notes, she advised the union executives to recommend that their members not sign up to a new and legitimate policy being advanced by the company, and electronically communicated that view to the entire employee group concerned.

In this and other instances, the management of BTC had indicated to Ms. Thompson that as Counsel to the company, she could not indiscriminately and continuously of her own volition publicly or otherwise communicate advice to the employee population and employee representative bodies, which was diametrically opposed to the interests and goals of the company whilst being engaged as Counsel within the company. She was, on this occasion, and repeatedly thereafter, informed that this would place her in an actual conflict of interest and in breach of her duties as Counsel to her client, the company, and otherwise generally as an employee, as she would within the context of the discharge of her direct job responsibilities wrongfully be advocating a union position, while properly having a duty to advocate a company position at the same time. The position would be regarded as “improper conduct” under the Legal Profession Act and would be untenable, and would otherwise be a fundamental breach of duty, as an employee generally.

The management of the company, including senior executives, have spoken to Ms. Thompson on numerous occasions to request a change of the behaviors and actions which are inconsistent with her professional role in the company, and her duties as an employee generally otherwise. BTC is satisfied that it gave Ms. Thompson every opportunity to moderate her behavior. The advice went unheeded.

To the point made by some that BTC is seeking to “disempower” the union, the company states that this is patently untrue. The company has and maintains a positive and productive relationship with the company’s union partners – the BCPOU (the non-management union) and the BCPMU (the management union). Since the BTC/CWC merger in April of last year, the company and its union partners have consulted and worked together on the voluntary separation package, the new industrial agreements, promotions and reclassifications, and a host of other initiatives of mutual benefit to the company and the union memberships. BTC values its relationship with its union partners and fully appreciates and embraces their role as representatives of the employee stakeholders of BTC.

BTC is concerned by the statements of select individuals speaking to the possibility of illegal industrial action. The company reminds all concerned of the law and protocols in respect of union grievances and complaints and the process for addressing same. The company will operate consistent with these provisions and it anticipates that the unions will similarly abide by these protocols. The company will address with utmost swiftness and seriousness, any unlawful industrial activities, as it seeks to ensure that provision of services to customers remain the company’s paramount concern.