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International Workers’ Day is a time to celebrate many gains made

Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour (File photograph)

Today Bermuda joins with the world to celebrate International Workers’ Day. We recognise the many sacrifices made and successes gained because of the perseverance of the workers in our country. I thank you all for your selflessness in the part that you play in sustaining our economy and being resilient in the face of crisis.

The Ministry of Economy and Labour has been unwavering in its continued campaign for workers’ rights. Over the past five years, we’ve made significant strides to ensure that our labour laws are fair, just and in line with international best practices. Recent legislative initiatives and proposals from the ministry will continue to advance and promote more sustainable future working conditions for all.

Unless a part of an agency shop, there were no protections for workers regarding sharing tips and other gratuities. Many workers received only a part of tips and other gratuities owed to them, as some employers were helping themselves to the tipping pool and putting money that should be going to their workers into their businesses.

We put a stop to this. As of March 1, 2024, all employers whose workers receive tips or other gratuities are no longer permitted to share in the tipping pool or redistribute other gratuities as they once did. Employers must also have a written policy statement outlining how other gratuities are collected and redistributed among their workers.

Prior to the implementation of a living wage, workers in Bermuda faced the reality of what can be described only as poverty wages. We also ended this. Eleven months ago, the ministry introduced Bermuda’s first national statutory minimum hourly wage rate, which was the first step in ensuring that all persons working in Bermuda receive a decent wage.

The ministry is also creating guidelines clarifying how the minimum-wage rate will progress beyond $16.40. The Wage Commission is reviewing and working on recommending a living-wage rate for Bermuda’s workforce.

Labour shortages, increased health and pension costs are only a few of the factors that result from the declining birthrates and the ageing population in Bermuda. It also hurts our economy and the ordinary citizens in Bermuda as the cost of living rises. Workers have to work more than one job to meet the demands of everyday living, and this cannot — nor should it — be sustainable for long periods.

We are in the process of putting a stop to this. The ministry has proposed tangible solutions to retain the local workforce and safeguard the sustainability of economic development while arming Bermudians with the knowledge and skills required to ensure that they have a fair chance at competing for skilled jobs.

The ministry seeks to further strengthen workers’ protection by increasing the maximum severance-allowance payout from 26 weeks, expanding on the existing equal-work-for-equal-pay provisions, and advancing pay-transparency provisions within the Bermuda Labour Code.

All of this work could not have been achieved without our union partners, who set the precedent for the fair distribution of tips and other gratuities, a decent hourly wage for their members and affordable retirement benefits that see persons who are able-bodied, and willing to do so, working past the age of 65.

Through union collective bargaining, workers have benefited from higher wages, job protections and a collective voice within the workplace, which equally safeguards the interests of employers and employees.

In 2021, the ministry made significant amendments to the legislation to simplify the union certification process and ensure that those workers who should be a part of a bargaining unit can do so. We also ensured that the unions received appropriate contributions for the bargaining conducted on behalf of their members, which in turn benefits all workers within a bargaining unit.

As a result of the crucial role that unions have and continue to play within the world of work and on behalf of all workers, this government is committed to launching a formal campaign to promote collective bargaining and union organising.

It is my commitment to the workers of Bermuda that this government, through the Ministry of Economy and Labour, and with the continued and valued collaboration of our union partners and various employer groups, will continue to advance fair and just policies in favour of workers’ rights and advancements within the workplace. We will keep a sustainable agenda that promotes equality, respect and dignity for Bermuda’s labour force at the forefront.

• Jason Hayward is the Minister of Economy and Labour

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Published May 02, 2024 at 8:22 am (Updated May 02, 2024 at 8:22 am)

International Workers’ Day is a time to celebrate many gains made

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