Industrial disputes should be resolved in a better way - BEC
Bermuda needs to find a better way to resolve industrial disputes, according to the Bermuda Employers Council (BEC).
In a statement released last night, BEC President Keith Jensen said disputes, like those that have recently emerged on the Island's docks and in the bus service, put Bermuda's economic security at risk.
“Industrial strife jeopardises the well being of all Bermudians affected by our reputation to attract investment/reinvestment in hotels and tourism, and makes a mockery out of efforts to show that Bermuda is a good place to do business and that we welcome business,” Mr Jensen said.
“Having different positions or conflicting ideas in labour relations is not the issue, it is how we as a country choose to resolve them will determine our future and our reputation worldwide.”
Mr Jensen, a former general manager at
The Royal Gazette, said the disputes are particularly damaging right now because of the already fragile state of the economy.
He called for the unions to avoid taking steps that the council consider harmful, such as meeting with union members without the approval of management, refusing to work overtime and abusing sick leave to have a sick out.
“They affect parties not involved in the dispute, sour working relationships and disrupt operations,” he said.
“We need to find ways to prosper, not inflict hardship. We need to ensure good labour relations, not slip into labour relations battles. We need to step back and find a synergy of ideas to promote labour relations harmony.
“Other countries have pulled together to make their economies better, and so must we.”
He said that it was the usual custom for any industrial action to stop when labour relations are referred to a tribunal to avoid increasing tensions.
“Tribunals making a decision should not function in an intimidating atmosphere or risk being under duress, for example, if the union's ban on overtime causes the docks to close or inflicts hardships on all of Bermuda,” he said.
“Differences of opinion about who is right or wrong in cases of discipline or termination are often solved by utilising best practices in labour relations.
“There is no benefit to anyone to take or threaten industrial action and then go to arbitration. We have to have some core values at work.”
August has been marked by industrial conflicts. Earlier this month bus drivers walked off the job after a colleague was fired for repeatedly refusing a drug test. However the drivers returned to work after the Department of Public transportation and the Bermuda Industrial Union agreed to take the matter to independent arbitration.
Workers at the Hamilton Docks meanwhile started a ban on overtime after a disagreement as to how “non-productive time” should be removed given the reduction of cargo.
Corporation of Hamilton staff put forward a 21-day strike notice over the firing of two colleagues, while the Prison Officers Association threatened industrial action over “sub-human” working conditions.
Mr Jensen said that in order to help improve the Island as a whole the BEC, through the Labour Advisory Council, will work with trade unions, Government and Management to chart a new course for industrial relations.
“We need to replace strife with peaceful resolution of disciplinary disputes without affecting trade union or employer rights,” he said.
“We need to improve upon what we do in labour relation practices and we need to achieve a better labour relations environment for the Island.”