HAMILTON, BERMUDA — Scores of public service workers held two days of work stoppage this week and threatened that more protests will be held weekly should the government not agree to the Bermuda Industrial Union’s (BIU) terms of decertification rules.
The legislation being contested permits union members to make decisions such as how they are represented, if at all, and what portion of their salary deduction is paid towards the union. However, Bermuda Premier David Burt posited that “decertification is rare because workers enjoy the privilege of being represented by a union” and argued that the “labour legislation strengthens unions, gives more protections to workers and is probably the most progressive union legislation that has been put in place in this country’s history”.
The BIU noted that in a membership meeting, “a motion was moved that…a weekly protest will take effect as of the week of September 13, 2021” in objection to the labour legislation.
“We are encouraging our sister unions and all members of the public who believe in justice to join us… The protest day will be announced weekly. The membership has agreed that the protest will continue until the government comes back to the table in good faith to engage in dialogue to reach a fair resolution of this matter,” read a BIU statement.
Meanwhile, Burt told local media that while he “sincerely hopes we can get past this impasse”, he is “not going to get into a back-and-forth with the union president and leadership”. He added that public service workers who take part in the protests will not be paid.
“What the BIU wanted was changes to the law and what the government has said is that changes to the law are not on the table because we believe they are fair, right, just and in keeping with International Labour Organization (ILO) standards, which are important to ensure that all workers, not just unionized workers, all workers have rights,” Burt said.
“That is the principle for which the Progressive Labour Party stands because we support workers and we want workers to be able to freely choose who they want to represent them in the workplace. We would prefer that they are represented by a union, but it is not the government’s job to put in place things that will restrict persons’ rights on how they can be represented in the workplace.”