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Government unmoved by strike threat

Chris Furbert BIU President (File photograph)

Opposition to the Bermuda Industrial Union’s threat of a major strike grew yesterday as the government maintained it will not back down on the issue of union decertification votes.

The Bermuda Industrial Union is demanding that the government amend the Cancellation of Certification section of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 2021.

Chris Furbert, BIU president, said the main concern was that a non-union member who only contributed 50 per cent of union dues had the right to vote on decertification.

But a government spokeswoman said in a statement last night: “The Government of Bermuda would like to make its position clear. The call for a general strike is most unfortunate and unnecessary.

“The government stands firm in its position that the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 2021 is fair and just. The government has no intention of amending the legislation.”

Meanwhile Cole Simons, the Opposition Leader, said the island must not be held to ransom as the economy struggles to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

And Stephen Todd, the chief executive officer of the Bermuda Hotel Association, said a strike would send a negative message to tourism industry partners and potential visitors.

Mr Simons said with the pandemic still ravaging the economy: “Many people have been laid off, we need to rebuild our economy so people can live a more comfortable and less stressful life. As a consequence we cannot continue to hold the country to ransom.

“Government and the union really have to sit around the table and resolve their issues. There is a process in place with arbitration and if they can’t reach consensus that is what arbitration is for. We have to be in this together – the unions, the government and the community – if we are going to rebuild this country to give people economic security and social security.”

Mr Simons said the calls to deny non-unionised workers a vote on whether a workplace should continue to have union representation is tantamount to “taxation without representation”.

He said: “That is where I come unstuck. Everyone should have a vote. If you are collecting contributions from employees then there should be some ability for them to have a say in union exchanges.

“You can’t have payment without representation. If the unions want to broaden their membership then at the end of the day they should be receptive to diverse contributions, diverse positions on issues and they need to grow in accordance with the diversity of their membership base.”

Mr Todd said: “From the association’s perspective, we would question the wisdom of the BIU in seeking to have a two-day shutdown of services at the end of the month when the focus of government and all industry sectors is to restore the economy and get as many unemployed and underemployed people back into the workforce.

“Most importantly, it will send a message to our industry trading partners and future visitors that we suffer from the risk of work stoppages or the lack of consistent labour. We would hope that both government and the BIU are able to resolve the issues prior to the shutdown taking effect at the end of the month as it has longer term negative economic consequences to our destination.”

The BIU’s position is that only current union members should be able to trigger a decertification ballot and form part of the 35 per cent needed to make a decertification application.

The government maintains that the decertification ballot which the government administers is a workplace ballot in the interest of all workers and not a union ballot. It has said: “As such, the government must consider the rights of the workers within the bargaining unit above and beyond the interests of the union/s”.

In a letter to David Burt, the Premier, dated last Thursday the union threatened a two-day shut down of the island on August 30 and 31 and said that if government failed to make the amendments David Burt, the Premier, and Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour, should step down.

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Published August 23, 2021 at 8:46 am (Updated August 24, 2021 at 8:03 am)

Government unmoved by strike threat

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