Covid 19 coronavirus: Tiger brokers finance staff told to come into office, despite MOH advice

A staff member at an Auckland finance firm says workers are “extremely concerned” after being told to come into a CBD office today, despite official Ministry of Health advice asking people to work from home after the latest community outbreak of Covid 19.

But Lester Tang, the human resources manager at Tiger Brokers, says the company is prioritising the health and safety of its workers and has a comprehensive Covid-19 response policy that aligns with the Government’s Covid-19 alert levels and includes allowing staff to work from home if they request it.

He said a number of staff contacted him last night expressing their concerns and were “successfully granted to work from home or other working arrangements”.

Yesterday, the Government released official advice stating that those who work in central Auckland should work from home where possible today.

And if workers must go into the city they should wear a face covering and maintain social distance.

This morning, the Herald was sent an anonymous email from a worker at Tiger Brokers with internal communications showing staff had been requested to work in the company’s Queen St offices today.

That was despite a staff member going home yesterday after their partner had been identified as a casual contact with a Covid positive case.

In a memo titled [Important] Covid-19 in CBD, Tang stated: “As an “essential service” your health and safety is always our priority, hence from tomorrow (Nov 13), you will be required to wear a mask at all times in office, and follow strict hygiene practices.

Workers were told they would be provided with up to three masks per person per day for free.

When staff members questioned the manager about advice from the Ministry of Health for CBD workers to work from home, they were referred back to the memo and told that Tiger Brokers was defined as an essential service.

“AS TBNZ is defined as an essential service, we need to operate as normal even under alert level 3 and 4, that is also why we require all to wear masks in office.”

Another worker questioned whether the business was an essential service.

“… that ‘essential service’ definition applies to broking NZX trades and supporting the New Zealand markets which we don’t do at present.”

On July 1, the stock exchange’s regulatory arm suspended Tiger’s accreditation as an NZX advising participant because it did not have an agreement with a trading participant allowing it to execute trades for clients.

In a statement sent to the Herald today, Tang said Tiger Brokers was defined as an essential service under a Financial Market Authority’s statement issued on March 23 which stated: “The FMA expects this will including all consumer and business financial services infrastructure including but not limited to: banking services, NZX and broking services….”

Tang said Tiger’s business fell into the category of broking services.

He said the company had asked staff to work from home under alert levels 3 and 4 and scheduled A-B shifts under level 2 to ensure health and safety.

“Flexible working times and arrangements, sanitisers, disinfectant wipes, free surgical-level facial masks are also provided to all staff throughout the time.”

The anonymous worker said staff were able to perform their duties from home and had done so under the previous two lockdowns.

“Many staff members have turned up to the office today but are extremely concerned about their health and safety. However, they are also very concerned about repercussions of not turning up to the office.”

“Even worse, no willingness to assist the MoH in combating the deadly virus spreading at the community level,” the anonymous worker said.

Tang said staff were invited to contact him privately if they had any concerns and a number of colleagues who did contact him were granted the ability to work from home or other working arrangements.

He said he had also had a meeting this morning with a number of department heads and had specifically asked them to talk to their employees and grant staff the option to work from home, or flexible working arrangements.

In July, Tiger Brokers was publicly censured and fined $160,000 by the NZX’s disciplinary tribunal for breaching stock exchange listing rules.

The tribunal found Tiger broke the rules by depositing clients funds in an account which was not a client fund account and for failing to comply with a direction from the NZX to cease using that account.

It was the second time the company had fallen foul of a regulator this year.

In April, the Financial Markets Authority issued a formal warning to Tiger for failing to have several adequate anti-money laundering protections in place.

Tiger was incorporated in New Zealand in 2015 and its parent company is listed on US tech exchange the Nasdaq.

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