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Clarien employees vote ‘yes’ to unionisation

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Clarien Bank Limited (Photo by Nicola Muirhead)

Non-managerial and clerical employees of Clarien Bank Limited have voted to recognise the Bermuda Public Services Union (BPSU) as their sole bargaining agent.

A ballot on Thursday morning resulted in 79 per cent of the voting employees supporting BPSU representation.

Some 57 positions will now be represented by the white-collar union.

Clarien Bank said: “The Bermuda Public Service Union submitted an application under the Trade Union Act of 1965 to the Bermuda Department of Workforce Development to be certified as the collective bargaining agent for non-management clerical and administrative workers of Clarien Bank Limited.

“Following a formal vote conducted under the guidance of Workforce Development, BPSU and Clarien Bank, employees have voted in favour of unionisation.

“Clarien Bank respects the rights of its employees and will work with BPSU and Workforce Development to formalise the unionisation terms.”

Labour relations officer Gabrielle Stewart, of the Department of Workforce Development, conducted the vote. The BPSU said that the ballot came “after many months of discussions with Clarien Bank representatives, as well as the Department of Workforce Development and the BPSU”.

“The Union applauds the workers for taking the initiative to secure representation in their workplace and the patience that they have displayed during this long process,” the BPSU said yesterday.

The BPSU primarily represents public sector white-collar workers. Members include Government employees, administrative staff at the Island’s schools, all school principals, the Bermuda Monetary Authority, Wedco, KEMH, and the Corporation of Hamilton.

As of Thursday, there were six private sector companies whose employees were represented by the BPSU.

They include BTC/KeyTech, TBI, LinkBermuda, US Airways and American Airlines, BAS Serco and now Clarien.

Union President Jason Hayward said the BPSU had 3,300 members.

In an interview at the BPSU headquarters yesterday, he said now that the BPSU had been certified to represent Clarien positions: “The first step is to have an orientation with all the new members.

“Then we have to sit down and work together with management to put a collective bargaining agreement in the workplace.”

The process leading to yesterday’s ballot started in May last year.

“You have to define the bargaining units,” Mr Hayward explained. “When the union and employees agree on the numbers, we can proceed with the vote. The next step is the ballot.”

“This bargaining unit consists of 57 positions,” he added, explaining it is the position and not the person who is unionised.

There has been an increase in interest in the BPSU, according to its president. He explained that the economic downturn had put stresses on employers, and in turn that hardship was passed on to the worker, salary or post, creating a desire for union representation.

“At this point there are a lot of employees who are not unionised but they are vulnerable,” he said. “A lot of employees don’t know how to become unionised — they are not aware of what was drafted in the Trade Union Act.”

He said that workers’ biggest challenge was coming together to decide to seek union representation.

“Workers come together to take the initiative, then approach the union or organisation they think best fits their demands,” he said. Mr Hayward said they were not specifically targeting any area of employment to represent, but “if there is a demand by employees for representation, we will step in to fill that void”.

The BPSU gets their message across through social media, their website and “doing positive things in the community — and we are always available to assist individuals who come in to get advice”.

“So hopefully persons will see us in a positive light and want to become part of our organisation,” he added.

Mr Hayward said the Union aimed to establish relationships with employers that allowed them to find solutions that were agreeable to both sides.

“Most issues are resolved with no real dispute,” he said, although he noted it was the acrimonious disputes that were the ones people heard about.

Both Mr Hayward and union general secretary Ed Ball noted the significance of the certification.

It is only the second time in Bermuda’s history that a bank’s employees have become unionised. Bermuda Provident Bank, which was founded in 1969, was the first bank. Today, it is called the Bermuda Commercial Bank.

President of the Bermuda Public Service Union, Jason Hayward (Photo by Akil Simmons)