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Minister denies decertification vote changes will hurt trades unions

Standing firm: Jason Hayward, the minister of labour (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Changes to labour legislation that caused a breach with a union benefited workers, the Government claimed yesterday.

Jason Hayward, the labour minister and a former trade union leader, said changes to the way staff could vote on union decertification was a minor adjustment to legislation that went back to 1965.

Mr Hayward said: “The Act has brought about significant changes to the administration of labour and union-related matters within Bermuda, the majority of which specifically benefit the Unions and their membership.

“However, one aspect, which has been in operation for the past two decades and which was not amended by the current legislation, is the composition of those who may vote to cancel a trade union’s certification.

“Any worker within an agency shop has the right to participate in a cancellation of certification ballot, whether he is a member of a trade union or not, as he has equal contributions regularly deducted from his wages.

“Workers who are not part of an agency shop and are not members of a trade union will not be considered a part of the appropriate bargaining unit eligible to vote in a cancellation of certification ballot.”

Mr Hayward was speaking after Chris Furbert, the president of the blue collar Bermuda Industrial Union, said the organisation’s general council had backed a two-day strike for the end of the month in protest over the change.

Only full members of a union could call for a vote on decertification and then vote in a ballot under earlier legislation.

The new law, which came into force in June, meant full members were still the only eligible group who could call for a vote, but members of the agency shop – who were not union members but paid some union fees – could also vote.

The BIU earlier claimed that the amendments that allowed non-unionised members of an agency shop to vote on decertification threatened the survival of the organisation.

Mr Furbert said that his members were planning a two-day shut down from next Monday and appealed for support from other unions and the public.

But Mr Hayward insisted: “The provisions of the repealed Trade Union Act 1965 remain the same in the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 2021.

“These provisions do not negatively affect unions' position or their composition of bargaining units, as the practice under the repealed Trade Union Act 1965 was for agency shop members to participate in a cancellation of certification ballot.”

Mr Hayward added: “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 26, 2021 at 9:00 am (Updated August 26, 2021 at 9:00 am)

Minister denies decertification vote changes will hurt trades unions

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