Ministerial Statement - Ethics
Minister calls for better work ethic
Economy Minister Kim Wilson appeared to attack the Bermuda Industrial Union this morning about a dispute over a sacked bus driver when she delivered a strongly-worded speech on work ethics.
Speaking in the Senate she said a recurring theme she heard was that “too many Bermudians enter the work place with a sense of entitlement which hugely impacts their work ethic”.
“It's no secret that we are living in economic times never before seen by this generation wherein there is evidence of a shrinking workforce and our friends and family members are struggling to find jobs.
“Against this backdrop, you would think that we would be experiencing a massive paradigm shift in terms of increased efficiency, stellar time keeping and a revitalization of a work ethic akin to that of our parents and grandparents. By no means am I suggesting that they did not experience other challenges in the workplace, that's perhaps the topic of another statement, however I am reminded often of our elders commitment to excellence.
“Despite this legacy of commitment and despite the current climate, work ethic continues to challenge us. Recent industrial action wherein bus service was suspended for several days was clearly sparked by one fundamental issue the issue of ethics in the work place.
“Madam President, I read the blogs and from what I have gathered, Bermuda was appalled by the actions of the Department of Public Transportation worker who called in sick for an extended period and so lacked respect for his employer that he was brazen enough to show up at his place of employment to do a hustle for a colleague for several consecutive days. What's more, the same worker forged the name of the colleague that he was filling in for.
“It remains unclear if the worker that he was filling in for was on legitimate leave or not. In any case Madam President, these events prompted management to discipline the wayward worker which resulted in industrial action.”
Last week, a bus driver was sacked after being found to be working a second job after going sick on his normal job. It prompted a walk-out by bus drivers which ended when the driver was reinstated.
She said via a Gazette Extraordinary she had declared that a labour dispute existed between the Bermuda Industrial Union and the Department of Public Transportation with respect to the termination of the worker, and that in accordance with provisions of section 11 as read with section 4 of the Labour Disputes Act 1992, she had advised the Union that she was referring the matter for settlement to the Labour Disputes Tribunal established under section 5 of the Act.
“In accordance with provisions of section 19 of the Act, it is unlawful to engage in a strike or industrial action short of a strike once a dispute has been referred to the Labour Disputes Tribunal.
“Madam President, I submit today that the Department of Transportation incident is one example of many. The deterioration of our work ethics and its negative impact on the workplace is pervasive. I implore all Bermudian workers today to redirect their energies and give 100 percent.
“The maintenance of good order, discipline, efficiency and proper conduct is essential to the reputation of any business or organisation. Every employee has a duty to his employer to preserve the highest standards in all aspects of work and behavior.
“However Madam President, on the other hand, employers also owe a duty to their employees as outlined in the Employment Act 2000 which provides interalia that it is expedient to promote the fair treatment of employers and employees by providing minimum standards of employment, by establishing procedures and notice periods for the termination of employment, by providing employees with protection against unfair dismissal.
“The promotion of superior work ethics requires a work environment wherein there is mutual respect between employer and employee.
“Madam President, my appeal today is to Unions too. Unions must work with their members to assist them in preserving the high standards that employers require. Unions must promote the concept of good work ethics and make their members aware of standards of conduct, behavior and performance expected.
“What's more Madam President, Unions must conduct themselves accordingly and lead by example, demonstrating support for good work ethics and legal compliance.”
She added: “Madam President, I have established what I believe to be a good working relationship with the Unions. In fact when they reach out to me, I listen to their concerns and attempt to seek to provide win win solutions. Likewise when I reach out to them, they too will listen to the concerns I raise.
“However, I cannot condone the deteriorating work ethic or support non-compliance.
“Madam President, the Bermuda Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and association. This is a fundamental right of all citizens - to assemble freely and associate with other persons such as trade unions. For an employer to deny this right is unconstitutional. Now those are reasons to down tools!!!
“Trade Unions are not above the law, but subject to it. Their rules are said to be a contract between the members and the union, but the rules are in reality, more than a contract. They operate under a legislative code laid down by Parliament and it must be obeyed by their membership.
“Lord Denning, the most celebrated English judge of the 20th century is quoted as saying during the delivery of a judgment in which he was presiding “Be you never so high, the law is above you”. In other words, no one is above the law, not even a trade Union.”
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