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Minister clarifies union decertification rules

In agreement: Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour. (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

Only members or former supporters of a union can will be able to trigger a ballot on whether a workplace should retain union representation, government confirmed yesterday.

Under labour relations laws proposed last year, both supporters and former opponents of bargaining units would have been able to initiate moves to vote on whether to end an agency shop agreement - a process known as decertification.

But unions threatened strike action over the controversial change, claiming that it violated worker rights. As a result, the Trade Union Consolidation Act was amended in the House of Assembly before passage to permit only union members or former supporters of unions to trigger a ballot.

In a press statement, Jason Hayward, the minister for labour, clarified the issue saying: “The Act ensures that those who can trigger a decertification ballot [or] make an application for decertification are only those persons who are current members of a union or persons that once supported the union.”

Although signed off by the Governor in January, the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act will not come into force until the beginning of next month.

Last Friday, the Bermuda Public Service Union said it was in talks with Government over the sticking point of decertification.

Mr Hayward said that the legislation – which brings about a major overhaul of labour laws – was “a significant advancement” in worker’s rights.

He also praised unions and employers for their input in drafting the legislation following an extensive consultation process.

He said: “This Act advances worker’s rights within a workplace and is a significant step forward for the Unions of Bermuda.

“June 1 will mark a momentous day for labour relations in Bermuda.

“The forefathers of our country’s labour movement would be pleased with both the amendments to the Employment Act 2000 and the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 2021, which now constitute the Bermuda Employment and Labour Code.

“The Act also adds several new provisions which will optimise and improve labour relations.

“I want to take this opportunity as the minister responsible for labour to thank all those who assisted in producing this most progressive labour legislation.

“There have been significant changes to the current labour legislation consolidated into the Act that benefits explicitly the unions and the workers of Bermuda.”

The BPSU did not respond to requests from The Royal Gazette for comment.

But the Bermuda Industrial Union is due to hold a press conference tomorrow to give its views on the matter.

For the Minister’s full statement see related media.

* This article has been amended to make it clear that only unionised staff or former union members can trigger a ballot.

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Published May 27, 2021 at 8:01 am (Updated May 27, 2021 at 8:01 am)

Minister clarifies union decertification rules

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