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BPSU refuses to support BIU’s call for industrial action

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No support: Armell Thomas, president of the Bermuda Public Service Union
Under pressure: Chris Furbert the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A union call for a two-day work stoppage next week was struck a blow yesterday after a sister union said it would not support the action.

The blue collar Bermuda Industrial Union announced the strike – due to start next Monday – last weekend and appealed to other labour organisations to support its stand against changes to procedures on union decertification votes.

But the white collar Bermuda Public Services Union said it would not take part in industrial action.

Armell Thomas, the president of the island’s second largest union, added: “The BPSU will not be encouraging our members to participate in this shutdown because of our previously stated position on the decertification process.”

Mr Thomas said the BPSU could not back strike action because its membership supported the new law.

The call for industrial action was the latest development in a longstanding row between the BIU and the Government over trade union laws passed in the House of Assembly last December.

Mr Thomas said: “The BPSU’s general council and executive committee’s stance on decertification is clear and has been articulated via an e-mail that was disseminated to the membership on June 18.

“To summarise, the union 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.

“This convention clearly establishes that all workers have the right to select their workplace representative, and the BPSU supports this fundamental right.”

Mr Thomas added that the BPSU agreed with “the fundamental rights of unions to protest on matters that they feel will have a detrimental impact on their members”.

But he said the BPSU believed the new law protected workers’ rights.

He added: “The BPSU recognises that there are checks and balances built into both the Trade Union and Labour Relations Consolidation Act 2021 and the supporting regulations to protect workers and unions alike.”

Chris Furbert, the president of the BIU, declined to comment yesterday when asked if the union still planned to go ahead with Monday’s strike.

Mr Furbert, speaking before the BPSU statement was released, said: “Let’s keep this short. The BIU will be holding an urgent special council meeting at 8am tomorrow and we will be addressing the media after that.”

The Bermuda Employers’ Council also joined the list of organisations that have asked the BIU to withdraw its strike threat.

Keith Jensen, the BEC president, said: “What is facing everyone in Bermuda now is that the union wants to do away with employee rights in the bargaining unit who may not want union representation.

“Those rights have been around for decades. The union is attempting this by what we see as coercion of Government to change the law in the union’s favour.

“Many governments of all political parties in the past have not changed those laws or procedures.

“For decades it has been against the law for unions to coerce Government, unless there is a bone fide labour dispute.”

Mr Jensen added: “It is unfortunate that the union is asking its members to take likely unlawful action and to give up two days’ pay.”

He said: “Although the union says that essential services are not being called upon to participate in strike action and it is not calling a general strike, it does not mean that industrial action – a strike, shutdown, or industrial action short of a strike – will be lawful.”

Mr Jensen warned the dispute could inflict even more damage on an economy ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic and lead to more job losses.

He said: “Now is not the time for further disruption to the economic environment, eroding what little confidence employers may still have about saving or growing their businesses.

“That may result in medium term reduction in jobs.”

Jason Hayward, the labour minister and a former BPSU leader, stood firm earlier this week and insisted the Government would not back down in the face of threats.

He said: “The Act has been the most pro-union legislation passed of any administration in Bermuda.

“The Government of Bermuda continues to operate through the principles of reasonableness and fairness, taking into account the interest of all workers – however, the Government has no intention to amend the legislation.”

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Published August 27, 2021 at 8:01 am (Updated August 27, 2021 at 11:22 am)

BPSU refuses to support BIU’s call for industrial action

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