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No U-turn on union decertification votes, Hayward vows

Standing firm: Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Government last night appeared to be on a collision course with the Bermuda Industrial Union over workplace decertification votes.

Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour, said he had “no intention” of amending new legislation that gave non-unionised staff the right to vote on whether a group of employees should be unionised.

The minister received the full backing of David Burt, the Premier, who later said: “The law that has been passed is the law that is in place.”

Mr Hayward was speaking after Chris Furbert, the president of the BIU, said the union was “not going to back down” in its opposition to the new law, which came into force on Tuesday.

Employees who do not want to join a union are still part of the “agency shop” or bargaining unit.

They pay a reduced fee to the union with an equal amount given to charity.

The BIU argued that those workers should not be allowed to vote on decertification – a view supported by Dwight Jackson, the general secretary of the Bermuda Trades Union Congress.

Mr Jackson said on Wednesday: “Most of us at the BTUC are of the understanding that only people who pay all should be able to vote.”

But Mr Hayward explained yesterday that the decertification law change was “reasonable and fair”, and accused the BIU of adopting a “self-interest” position.

He added that his ministry was not engaged in talks with the BIU and that the Government would “stand firm”.

Mr Hayward said: “In this instance, the Government seeks to balance the interest of all workers in the bargaining unit with the interest of union members.

“The Government will not be forced to accept a position that removes rights from workers within a bargaining unit.”

Mr Hayward added: “The decertification ballot is a workplace ballot administered by the Government in the interest of workers and is not a union ballot.

“As such, the Government must consider the rights of the workers within the bargaining unit above and beyond the interests of the unions.

“It’s a self interest position that the unions actually have to try to limit the participation in the decertification ballot.

“The Government stands firm behind its position that there will be no further amendments to the Act.”

Mr Hayward emphasised that non-unionised employees could not trigger a decertification ballot under the new law.

He added that anyone who was not a member of the agency shop could not vote on decertification.

Mr Hayward also rejected calls by the BIU to raise the voting requirement for decertification from a simple majority to 60 per cent.

He said: “After reviewing trade union legislation in other jurisdictions, it is typical for all persons within a bargaining unit to participate in the decertification ballot irrespective of trade union membership.

The changes to the Act that came into effect on 1 June 2021 will permit all persons within a bargaining unit to vote in a decertification ballot, as a successful certification will trigger an automatic agency shop.“

Mr Hayward added: “I must also clarify that the changes to the Act in this regard will not negatively affect the current position of unions or their current composition of bargaining units as the practice under the Trade Union Act 1965 was for agency shop members to already participate in the decertification ballot.

“What we have to do is look at the position we’re in regarding the rights of workers. We have a very firm position that we don’t want to take away any rights that workers enjoy.”

Mr Hayward said: “The amendments to the Employment Act 2000 and the consolidation of the Trade Union, Labour Relations, and Labour Disputes Acts that form this Act has been a collaborative effort of the unions, employer groups and the Government.

“Throughout this process, the ministry has listened keenly to the Unions and employer groups.

“As such, this Government can confidently say that consolidation of the labour legislation that has formed this Act is the most pro-union legislation passed of any administration in Bermuda.”

Last night Mr Burt highlighted the ruling party’s union roots, claiming that the Progressive Labour Party was “born out of the labour movement”.

He added that the legislation represented a “significant improvement in labour laws”.

He said; “It is a very large and long Act – we are talking about a disagreement on one particular clause.”

“I would sincerely hope that this one issue, a small part of the entire Bill, does not overshadow all the progress that has been made in this labour legislation.”

He said that discussions with the unions would continue.

But when pressed on whether the Government would reverse its position, Mr Burt said: “The law that has been passed is the law that is in place.”

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Published June 04, 2021 at 8:04 am (Updated June 04, 2021 at 8:04 am)

No U-turn on union decertification votes, Hayward vows

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