BPSU to tackle bullying and abuse

  • “Unions certainly should be involved”: Jason Hayward, president of the Bermuda Public Services Union

    “Unions certainly should be involved”: Jason Hayward, president of the Bermuda Public Services Union

An epidemic of bullying and abuse of expatriate workers is to be tackled by a union chief.

Jason Hayward, the president of the Bermuda Public Services Union, said a survey at one large organisation with hundreds of employees had shown more than half of those who responded had suffered some sort of abuse.

Mr Hayward added: “The respondents reported that the bullying, harassment and incivility takes place from their managers, staff under supervision, co-workers, and customers.

“I have personally met with employees who have reported that they have been subjected to bullying and harassment in the workplace since they arrived in Bermuda,” the union leader said.

He added the problem could be much bigger because many expatriates were too scared to report ill-treatment.

Mr Hayward said: “The No 1 reason that they don’t come forward is that they are afraid that their contract will not be renewed.

“If they are not part of a clique, then they are somewhat of an outcast. I fear there are many in our community that are subjected to similar treatment and do not know where to go for support.”

Mr Hayward, who announced last week he would set up a special forum for expatriate workers, said the survey results had strengthened his resolve to tackle the problem.

The survey found that 51 per cent of respondents in the large organisation, which has not been named, had suffered abuse.

A total of 31 per cent said they had been bullied, 34 per cent reported they had been subjected to incivility and 14 per cent had been victims of racial harassment.

About 13 per cent said they had been harassed based on their nationality, 10 per cent had been threatened over their work permit security and 7 per cent suffered sexual harassment.

A small minority, 3 per cent, per cent said they were victimised over their sexual orientation and 2 per cent said they had been picked on because of their religion.

A total of 7 per cent said they had been harassed due to other factors.

Mr Hayward said the BPSU is to contact expatriate associations to help set up the forum and that he hoped it would be up and running by September.

These include the Portuguese Cultural Association, the West Indian Association and the Bermuda Nurses Association which has a significant expatriate membership.

Mr Hayward said all unions had an obligation to tackle the problem and that non-unionised workers should also be represented.

He added: “Unions certainly should be involved and I will be inviting them.

“The Bermuda Industrial Union’s hotel division membership is extremely diverse and I think that it would be an excellent opportunity for us as unions to come together. That is what this forum is going to seek to do. When I meet with the community stakeholders we can have a strong coalition of entities that all move with one common purpose.”

Mr Hayward added: “The majority of our members make above a living wage.

“When the unions are advocating for the implementation of a living wage, we recognise that there is a segment of our community, in particular migrant workers, who don’t even make a living wage.

“We are not going to stop our advocacy because it transcends our membership. We need to raise the floor for all, not just our members.

“We will take an across-the-board approach which views someone as a human being and tries to lift that person’s wellbeing over the demographic group that they come from.

Mr Hayward said: “We have recognised that most times at non-unionised workplaces, migrant workers don’t have the same levels of protections at the lower end of the scale and there is a hostile attitude towards non-Bermudian workers generally across the board in all job categories.

“Many Bermudians view non-Bermudians as an economic threat.”

Mr Hayward said that concerns had also been raised at a Labour Advisory Council meeting about claims that management retained the bulk of tips intended for staff at some non-unionised restaurants and hotels.

He added: “This practice disproportionally affects expat workers in the hotel and restaurant sector as they comprise a high percentage of employees in those areas.”

The LAC did not respond to a request for comment and statistics by press time.

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Published Jul 5, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Jul 5, 2019 at 6:19 am)

BPSU to tackle bullying and abuse

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