BPSU: redundancy should be last resort
Company managers should consider all the alternatives before staff were made redundant, a trade union said yesterday.
The Bermuda Public Services Union said it feared that “unscrupulous employers” could target union members.
Armell Thomas, the BPSU president, said the union “recognises the devastating impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the economy as a whole and on individual businesses”.
He added: “With the implementation of Covid-related government restrictions, the dramatic decline in demand for goods and services as a result of the near closure of our tourism industry and disruption in many supply chains, local businesses are struggling.
“Faced with these challenges, many businesses have, or are considering, making staff redundant as a means to cut costs.
“While cognisant of these challenges, the BPSU is concerned that some unscrupulous employers may be unfairly targeting unionised workers.”
Mr Thomas said: “Unions across the global are reporting incidents of unfair employment practices, with employers using the pandemic as a means to get rid of employees who are protected by a collective bargaining agreement.”
He highlighted that the Employment Act 2000 regulated how redundancies could take place, which included “the discontinuance of all or part of the business” and “the sale or other disposal of the business”
Reorganisation, modernisation and a reduction in business caused by economic conditions were also on the list.
Mr Thomas said the legislation said that redundancy could happen when an employee had been laid off for more than four months or when it was impossible or impractical for the business to carry on at its usual rate because of a materials shortage or mechanical breakdown.
But he added: “The employer must be able to explain why certain employees were targeted for redundancy over others.
“With this in mind, the criteria used by employers to determine which employees will be made redundant must be transparent, fair and objective.
“It is important to note that an employer can be challenged in the Employment Tribunal or a Court of law if the redundancy appears to be unfair and unlawful.
“Before making workers redundant, the BPSU implores employers to exhaust all possible alternatives.”
Mr Thomas said that other options could be found through the legal requirement to consult staff and their trade union.
He added alternatives to job losses included the use of Government assistance for businesses affected by the pandemic and other cost reductions short of redundancy.
He said a temporary reduction or removal of overtime rates, cuts to bonuses and temporary layoffs could be considered.
Mr Thomas highlighted that other alternatives included a temporary reduction in the number of days or hours worked by staff, replacement of full-time posts with part-time positions as well s redeployment of workers.
He said: “Employers are also reminded that there are high costs associated with making people redundant, which extend beyond the cost of redundancy payments.
“Those businesses that cut staff may not be equipped to maximise opportunities when the economy does turn around.”
Mr Thomas added: “The protection of jobs during this crisis must be the priority for all.
“Employers, employees, unions and government must work collectively with this as one of our primary goals.”