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Government and BPSU reach agreement on decertification votes

Strong hand: Jason Hayward, the minister of labour (File photograph)

A trade union has backed down in its battle with Government over a controversial change to labour law to allow non-unionised workers to vote on decertification.

The row broke out after legislation was passed at the start of the year that allowed non-unionised staff to vote on whether a workplace should retain union representation.

The clause was condemned by the island’s two biggest unions – the Bermuda Industrial Union and the Bermuda Public Service Union – who threatened strike action if the bill became law.

But last night Government confirmed that an agreement with the unions had been reached.

Jason Hayward, the labour minister, said: “I am pleased to report that after discussion with representatives with the Bermuda Public Services Union held today, the parties have reached a mutual understanding, with the BPSU indicating to the Government that they support the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 2021 and are no longer pursuing amendments to the legislation related to the decertification process.”

Mr Hayward added: “The Government has been in ongoing dialogue with our union partners regarding the decertification procedure pursuant to the Act.

“While there have been differences of opinion with the unions related to the rights of all workers in a bargaining unit participating in a decertification process, the Government of Bermuda’s position has been rooted in the principles of reasonableness and fairness.

“The Government will continue to hold a position that upholds the rights of all workers in the bargaining unit, regardless of their status within a union.”

Mr Hayward thanked the BPSU and the Labour Advisory Council for “the months of work that contributed to the significant changes to the current labour legislation”

He said: “The Government worked with the unions over several years to make significant progress on this legislation, strengthening both union and workers’ rights.

“It is important to recognise that the Act was amended on the floor of the House of Assembly after consultation with the unions so that the current legislation reads exactly the same as the previous act and ensures the unions are not disadvantaged.

“The Government will continue to engage stakeholders to ensure we achieve the best outcomes for the Island’s workers.“

The law to allow non-unionised staff to vote on whether a workplace should retain union representation is scheduled to come into force next month.

Armell Thomas, the president of the Bermuda Public Services Union, said last week that unions were still in talks with the Government.

Mr Thomas added: “Despite extensive dialogue on this outstanding issue, the unions have unfortunately not been able to find an agreeable resolution with Government on which workers in a bargaining unit can participate in a vote for decertification.

“The BPSU will make every effort to have continued dialogue on the new legislation and ways to improve conditions within the workplace.”

Mr Thomas highlighted that businesses had had five months to familiarise themselves with the law before they have to put it into practice.

He said: “This six-month delay allowed employees and employers the time needed to acquaint themselves with the new laws before becoming enforceable.

“To ensure compliance, all employers will need to make the necessary changes to their current employment contracts and/or handbooks.

“Those businesses that are unionised will need to make certain that their collective bargaining agreements are in compliance with the new legislation.”

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Published May 25, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated May 25, 2021 at 8:00 am)

Government and BPSU reach agreement on decertification votes

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