Be grateful for unions

  • Labour Day: a time to remember the unions’ role in many of the workers’ rights we have today (File photograph)

    Labour Day: a time to remember the unions’ role in many of the workers’ rights we have today (File photograph)

When we wake up in the morning and turn on our lights, we can thank union members. When we drive to work on paved public highways, we can thank union members.

When we go to the hospital and receive care from medical professionals, we can thank union members.

When a mother is at home bonding with her newborn, she is doing so because of union members’ fight for maternity leave.

This week, as a retiree lives off their government and/or private pensions, they do so because of the vision and action of union members.

Many, if not most of the goods and services that we use daily are provided by union members, not only in Bermuda but worldwide. Every one of the hundreds of containers that arrive in Bermuda weekly are loaded, shipped and unloaded by union members in Florida, New Jersey and Bermuda, respectively.

Thousands of members of the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union have joined with the masses, during thunderstorms on August 17, to demand an end to authoritarian rule and police brutality against student protesters.

This month, the British Airline Pilots Association, which represents 90 per cent of BA pilots, voted to strike on three separate days in September because of frustration with the airline’s management over pay negotiations.

Here in Bermuda, there are employers who actively discourage their employees from becoming union members because they do not want to have to pay their workers decent pay and/or benefits.

There are persons, for whatever reasons, who seemingly have no love for unions or union membership. Ironically, however, they are beneficiaries of the vision and works of union members.

The island’s unions have been on the forefront of progressing and protecting the rights of Bermuda’s workers. Without the unions, there would not be labour legislation which enshrines the protection of worker rights including:

• A 40-hour work week

• Health insurance

• Pension coverage

• Overtime

• Paid vacation

• Sick leave

• Bereavement leave

• Maternity and paternity leave

• Redundancy and severance pay

• Protection against unfair dismissal

• The establishment of the Employment Tribunal to hear employment-related complaints

Recently in Bermuda, an employer was exposed as having not paid some of its workers in almost one month. Without a doubt, it will be the Bermuda Industrial Union who, along with the Department of Labour and Workforce Development, which will ensure that the workers’ employment rights are protected.

As you read this newspaper, whether in print or online, please take a moment to thank those union members who provided the hard copy or posted this to a website.

Tonight at Fairmont Southampton, hundreds will gather for the annual BIU Labour Day Banquet to enjoy a meal prepared and served by union members, listen to music played by union members and speeches by union members.

This weekend as you lay in bed, with or without the comfort of an air conditioner, that power will be provided by Electricity Supply Trade Union members.

In closing, let us take a moment to thank all the workers of Bermuda and organised labour worldwide. It is clear that most of the daily activities that we carry out and social benefits that we enjoy depend on their professionalism and long-term vision.

Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at

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Published Aug 30, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Aug 31, 2019 at 2:54 pm)

Be grateful for unions

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