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Law to allow non-union members votes on decertification passes House

Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour (File photograph)

A controversial change to labour relations law to allow non-union members a vote on whether a workplace should retain union representation was approved by MPs last night.

The change means all workers in a bargaining unit, including non-union staff, will get to vote on union representation – known as decertification – despite the threat of a strike by unions if it was passed.

Jason Hayward, the labour minister, introduced the Bill, designed to streamline labour laws.

He told MPs: “This is the second of two Bills that will become the employment and labour code for Bermuda.”

The Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act also proposed to reduce the number of employment tribunals to one.

The Act will create a single tribunal to handle all employment complaints and labour relations disputes.

Another reform introduced civil penalties of up to $5,000 to replace most offences that would have required court appearances for breaches of compliance.

Chris Furbert, the president of the BIU, earlier this week warned that the change could spark major industrial unrest.

Michael Dunkley, a One Bermuda Alliance MP, called for an amendment to include the Hamilton docks among essential services.

Mr Dunkley referred to a recent industrial dispute at the port that had disrupted the flow of cargo off the docks.

He said the addition of the docks to essential services not allowed to strike would be a move “supported by people through Bermuda”.

Jarion Richardson of the OBA welcomed the introduction of civil penalties for non-compliance.

He said: “I have no doubt from the minister’s experience in the union that this legislation has been very well considered.”

Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker and a former president of the BIU, said that workplace ballots on trade union certification and decertification had been introduced in labour legislation passed in 1998.

Mr Burgess said trade unions had battled to win workers’ rights.

He added: “A lot of young people take a lot of things for granted.

“We had no hazardous pay, or vacation pay, or pensions.”

He added: “We welcome the consolidation in this Bill.”

The law, still to be passed by the Senate, would also allow workers in a union shop who decided to pay their union dues to charity instead would keep the option – but it would be changed from a 100 per cent donation to 50 per cent to charity and 50 per cent to the union.

Scott Pearman, an Opposition MP, said it was “truly surprising” that workers would no longer be able to send the full amount to charity.

Vance Campbell, a PLP MP, said amendments would still be required in the future to trade union legislation.

But he praised the legislation for “consolidating, simplifying and clarifying” the law.

MPs debated the issue for more than three hours, in part because Mr Hayward had to make several amendments to the 100-plus clauses included in the Bill.

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Published December 12, 2020 at 8:34 am (Updated December 12, 2020 at 8:34 am)

Law to allow non-union members votes on decertification passes House

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