BIU ‛out in the cold’ after BPSU drops out of fight against decertification votes
The Bermuda Industrial Union has been left “out in the cold” by the island’s second largest trade union in the fight over decertification but will fight on, its president said yesterday.
Chris Furbert, the BIU president, said the union was “not going to back down” on its refusal to back changes to union decertification votes, despite the Bermuda Public Services Union’s acceptance of the deal.
Mr Furbert warned the legal changes, which took effect yesterday, threatened the survival of the BIU.
He hit out at the BPSU, which accepted the Government’s move on decertification after earlier opposition alongside the BIU.
Both unions had argued that non-unionised staff should not be able to vote on whether a workplace should keep union representation.
He added: “We are out there in the cold. That’s not a way to treat a sister union.”
Mr Furbert said the BIU was left “shocked and amazed they just dropped us”.
“Decertification is not a nice word for unions, particularly as it relates to non union members being able to participate.
“So certainly we teamed up with the BPSU and we honestly thought that we were going to be in this together.”
Mr Furbert said talks continued with the Government although the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act was now in force.
He added: “You’re talking about our survival.”
Mr Furbert warned decertification changes would hurt the BIU more than any other union.
He highlighted that 90 per cent of the BPSU’s membership were public sector employees, but 75 per cent of the BIU’s ranks worked in the private sector.
Mr Furbert joined forces with BPSU president Armell Thomas to oppose the legislation last December.
They threatened that unions would take strike action if Jason Hayward, the labour minister, did not reconsider the Act’s decertification clause.
But Mr Hayward announced the BPSU has agreed to back the legislation just six months later.
Mr Furbert said he had discussed his concerns with David Burt, the Premier, as well as Mr Hayward, and that the BIU would seek legal advice.
He added: “The Government is prepared to have a conversation with the BIU and they are looking at trying to figure out how they can work with us, because it is certainly not their intent to destroy the BIU.
Mr Furbert said yesterday there was an offer on the table from the Government for “a grandfather clause, grandfathering this to the 1965 Act compared with the Act that comes into force today”.
A grandfather clause would exempt existing agreements from the changes.
Mr Furbert said a draft of the proposal was being examined by the union’s lawyers.
He added: “This is a delicate issue and, respectfully, I do not think Government can afford to get this wrong.”
Mr Furbert said: “All we are saying is that decertification is fine. It’s who is able to participate is where we have the problem.”