Government and union ‘agree to disagree’ on union law reforms
The Government enjoys a constructive relationship with the island’s trade unions, labour minister Jason Hayward said, even as he acknowledged that decertification remained a topic of disagreement with the island’s blue-collar union.
Speaking just ahead of the Labour Day weekend, Mr Hayward said: “I think we have agreed to disagree on that one particular issue.”
The remarks came as Mr Hayward was asked for an assessment of the island’s labour relations.
The minister said there was “always going to be some level of conflict” between governments and the unions that represented their employees.
“But what is seen is there’s such a common interest to work together on issues that transcend workplace issues, and those are national issues,” he added.
Regular talks have continued since an open rift erupted last year with unions, the Bermuda Industrial Union in particular, over decertification — after a public stand-off over which workers would be eligible to vote in workplace union decertification ballots.
Mr Hayward said “the relationship since that particular issue is healthy”.
“The dialogues I’ve been having with the unions are on issues that transcend whatever issues they are experiencing,” he said.
Mr Hayward described talks as focused on “how we can improve working standards for workers across the board”.
He said the two sides were not allowing decertification to “remain a barrier to progress in other areas”.
On the question of this year’s soaring costs in the face of inflation, the minister said that “at some point in time it’s going to require direct government policy intervention” on wage stagnation.
He highlighted relief efforts including tax cuts to families in need, but added: “We are going to have to collectively work together, Government and businesses, to reverse the trend of increasing inflation.”
Calling it “a social justice issue”, Mr Hayward added: “If prices continue to go up, and the cost of living continues to go up, what we’re doing is eroding the pricing power of workers.
“You’re actually eroding their quality of life.”
Mr Hayward emphatically denied any backlog remaining in the processing of work permits, saying the processing of applications was being done in “a timely manner”.
But he added: “Where there may be a bit of a lag is in documentation.
“But persons have been informed of approvals that have been given in a very timely manner.
“There is no backlog in outstanding work permits.”
On the question of passport applications, which have been hit with delays that were to be reined in to an 11-week limit, Mr Hayward said he intended to “provide the country with a full update on passports in the coming weeks”.