BPSU warning over unscrupulous employers but backs law change
A union leader is calling for tougher penalties for “unscrupulous employers” who try to weaken union representation.
Armell Thomas, the president of the the Bermuda Public Service Union, said membership in some bargaining units was under threat from “union-busting tactics by employers”.
Mr Thomas said: “The BPSU has seen employers attempt to manipulate the composition of bargaining units by hiring non-union supporters to fill unionised posts or purposefully restructuring a unionised post to ensure that it is moved outside the bargaining unit.
“As advocates for workers, it is the responsibility of all unions to be the lookout for any union-busting tactics by employers.
“The BPSU stands forever united with our sister unions in all efforts to continue to strengthen Bermuda’s labour legislation to mitigate against these types of coercive bullying and harassment tactics.
“We believe that increasing penalties for employers who engage in such practices would serve as a further deterrent.”
The union has hired a labour relations organiser in a bid to increase membership.
Linda Bogle-Mienzer main responsibility “will be to increase the union’s presence in our current bargaining units”, Mr Thomas said.
“To accomplish this, she will be establishing clear communication links with our current members as well as connecting with all non-members.
“The BPSU, like all trade unions, has an obligation to continue to grow and strengthen our bargaining units from within.
“The BPSU executive committee and general council recognise the importance of remaining relevant to our members because when our members are satisfied with the representation that they receive from their union, the threat of decertification is minimised.”
Mr Thomas once again stressed the BPSU’s support for recent changes to decertification laws.
He pointed out that, under the new rules, only union members or workers who were once a member of the union have the right to request that a ballot for decertification be held, and that 35 per cent of staff had to agree that a ballot be held.
He said: “The Government confirmed that there are checks and balances built into the legislation and the supporting regulations to protect workers and unions alike.
“The BPSU acknowledges that permitting all workers in a bargaining unit to participate in both a ballot for certification and decertification is in keeping with ILO Convention C098 – the right to organise and collective bargaining – which clearly establishes that all workers have the right to select their workplace representative.
“The BPSU supports this fundamental right.”
The Bermuda Industrial Union has condemned the policy and earlier this month, Chris Furbert, the president of the BIU, said he was “shocked and amazed” the BPSU had supported the new regulations after initially rejecting them.
He said: “We are out there in the cold. That’s not a way to treat a sister union.
“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.”
BIU members worked to rule last week in protest at the legislation. A decision on any further industrial action is expected to be made shortly.