Credit union members protest against plans to retire 73-y-o manager

Credit union members protest against plans to retire 73-y-o manager

Observer staff reporter

Friday, September 25, 2020

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FALMOUTH, Trelawny — Members of the Trelawny Cooperative Credit Union (TCCU) Limited, who on Wednesday protested against plans by the entity to retire General Manager Winston Tomlinson say they will now wait until the TCCU's annual general meeting to again voice their concerns.

The credit union members, who staged a peaceful demonstration at the front of the Falmouth branch Wednesday morning, claimed that the management was attempting to unceremoniously replace the general manager who has served the financial institution for 40 unbroken years.When staff and TCCU members arrived at the credit union in Water Square Wednesday morning, they were denied entry to the building as the doors at the back and front entrance were chained. Operations did not get underway until nearly an hour after the chains were removed.

The members said they were “stunned” upon seeing an advertisement in the press seeking a suitably qualified individual to fill the post of general manager at the credit union, and upon investigations were informed that the 11-member board of the TCCU decided that the highly respected Tomlinson was too old to continue in the post.

“I don't see anything wrong with Mr T, so why should he leave? We don't want him to leave. So we are going to do whatever we can to let him stay [as] we are the the ones who own the credit union and we elect persons on the board to serve, and they should not have to push out Mr T like that without saying thanks,” one of the demonstrators said.

In a telephone interview with the Jamaica Observer, TCCU Board Chairman Dwayne Edwards said that to suggest that Tomlinson will be dismissed is incorrect. He pointed out that the board is in the process of finding a replacement for the 73-year-old Tomlinson, who should have retired from the age of 65.

“The situation is that the board, within its rights, considered the position of the general manager, and the fact that Mr Tomlinson is at the credit union at 73 years old we would have considered his age. In fact, he would have retired in 2014, and the fact that the Government's restrictions speak of persons over the age of 70 who are required to stay in.”

The board, he said, had had discussions with Tomlinson, informing him of plans to have him retired. Tomlinson, said the board chair, would be asked to stay on six months after a new general manager is identified. “There was no dismissal, and there was no termination letter that Mr Tomlinson would have received,” Edwards said.

Speaking with members of the media, Tomlinson said it was only Wednesday morning that he received a letter from the board of the TCCU pointing out that Government has mandated that people his age should stay home and that he should demit office on November 1.

“I believe all this discussion should have taken place before anything was done. They have advertised the post, and maybe they found somebody [because] I have been given a deadline of November 1 to get the person who is going to take over from me to understand the credit union,” Tomlinson said.

He added: “Members are saying that for a person who has served this credit union for years, there is no way he should have to leave the credit union like that. It is unceremonious and they are very, very upset. They are saying for the service I have given over the years, the sacrifices I have made, they feel that I deserve better than that. So hence the demonstration, and everybody is up in arms to say it should never happen. They are saying that even with COVID-19 I still can serve them, as they feel that I am mentally and physically capable to provide the service.”

Edwards, however, stated that he does not have any knowledge of the November 1 timeline for the general manager to depart.

“The truth is we should have had a contract in place for Mr Tomlinson six years ago on a yearly basis, but that does not exist on his file. So we sought to formalise an arrangement going forward. We believe that the time has come for us to actually look for a replacement, which is the right of the board,” Edwards stressed.

The demonstrating TCCU members, meanwhile, vowed that they will fight to keep Tomlinson in the post, and threatened to sever ties with the credit union if he is replaced.

“No Mr T, no credit union,” they chanted in unison. “We don't want anybody who we have to talk to on phone. Mr T is always willing to talk to us in person, so if Mr Tomlinson goes we are going to take our savings elsewhere,” a demonstrator said.

Tomlinson, meanwhile, said although he is willingness to continue to serve, he will not do so in a hostile environment.

“As long as I have health and I am mentally able I will continue to serve the credit union no matter what, but I don't want a situation where I have to work in hostility with a board because we have to work together to build [the company],” he said.

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