Overseas Unions Express Support For B.U.T.

November 20, 2015

Two overseas organisations — Education International and the National Education Association — have written to Premier Michael Dunkley to express their support for the Bermuda Union of Teachers [BUT], with both saying they have ”serious concerns” about the actions of the Government as concerns the BUT.

The US-based National Education Association [NEA], who said they represent three million members, said they “hope that the government and the unions will continue to seek resolution prior to the court summons date” and they “will be watching for positive progress in Bermuda.”

Education International [EI], who said they represent more than 32 million teachers and education workers worldwide, said they have “serious concerns” about the actions of the Government as concerns the BUT, their affiliate in Bermuda.

“By ratifying ILO conventions 87 and 98, Bermuda committed to respecting the rights of workers and civil servants to freedom of association and to collective bargaining. We hope that your government will keep honouring this commitment,” said EI – which is based in Belgium.

“Should it not be the case, EI and the BUT will bring the case to the International Labour Organisation.”

The full letter from Education International  follows below:

Dear Premier Dunkley,

Education International [EI], the Global Union Federation representing more than 32 million teachers and education workers worldwide, expresses serious concerns about the actions of your government as concerns the Bermuda Union of Teachers [BUT], EI’s affiliate in Bermuda.

It has come to our knowledge that the Minister of Home Affairs will be seeking from the court next week an injunction that will make it unlawful for the BUT and four other public service unions to engage in any type of industrial action.

Last January, the BUT showed good faith in working with the government to address budget shortfalls. Budgetary solutions were mutually agreed upon. However your government preferred to ignore them and is now initiating questionable legal action to attack union rights.

By ratifying ILO conventions 87 and 98, Bermuda committed to respecting the rights of workers and civil servants to freedom of association and to collective bargaining. We hope that your government will keep honouring this commitment. Should it not be the case, EI and the BUT will bring the case to the International Labour Organisation.

Education International is calling on the Government of Bermuda to:

  • Withdraw the legal action against the BUT and the other public service unions;
  • Maintain a meaningful dialogue with BUT, and respect collective agreements;
  • Respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of teachers in accordance with international labour standards.

I trust that your government will act swiftly to address this important matter. In the meantime, Education International, and the teaching community worldwide, will continue to monitor the situation of Bermudian teachers closely.

Yours sincerely,

Fred van Leeuwen
General Secretary

The full letter from the National Education Association follows below:

Dear Premier Dunkley:

On behalf of the three million members of the National Education Association, I write to you with serious concerns regarding your government and its actions with the Bermuda Union of Teachers.

Through Education International [representing more than 370 organizations in 172 countries and territories], our two organizations work together to advance quality public education.

It has come to our attention that the Bermuda Government has issued a Notice of Hearing in Court, November 24-26, to the Bermuda Union of Teachers and to the other public service unions in Bermuda. We hope that the government will respect collective bargaining agreements as it acts on this.

The Bermuda Union of Teachers showed good faith last January in working with the government to address budget shortfalls; this effort was largely ignored by you after budgetary solutions were mutually agreed upon between the government and the unions.

I hope that the government and the unions will continue to seek resolution prior to the court summons date, as well as to honor ILO conventions ratified by the Bermuda government.

The National Education Association of the United States, and our Education International colleagues around the globe, will be watching for positive progress in Bermuda.


Lily Eskelsen García
President, National Education Association
Vice President, Education International for North America and the Caribbean

On a related note, the the Bermuda Trade Union Congress [BTUC] released a statement that said the Unions appeared before the Chief Justice Mr. Ian Kawaley yesterday in the legal action taken by the OBA Government.

“The Government applied to the court for an order that attendance of Government public employees at the hearing on 24th, 25th and 26th November, 2015 was unnecessary,” the BTUC said.

“The Chief Justice decided that it was arguable that every worker of each Union has a right to attend the hearing, but it was not necessary for all members to attend the hearing next week.

“As a practical matter, the Chief Justice said the court room has limited space and for that reason, it would be unnecessary for all members of each Union to be in attendance at the court hearing next week.

“Contrary to the letter dated October 23, 2015, the Chief Justice ruled that Executive Officers of each Trade Union should attend the court hearing.”

The BUT is a member of the BTUC, alongside the Bermuda Federation of Musicians & Variety Artists, Bermuda Industrial Union, Bermuda Public Services Union, Bermuda Fire Services Association Electrical Supply Trade Union, Bermuda Prison Officers Association and Associate Member Bermuda Police Officers Association.

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Comments (17)

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  1. Double S says:

    Why is the BUT lying to these overseas organisations?

    The upcoming court case isn’t to prevent the Unions from engaging in industrial action. It is simply to prevent wild cat industrial action and have the Unions abide by the CBA in the same manner thy demand of the employers. There is a grievance process which has been agreed to by both the Unions and the employers in which notice must be given before downing tools. Why can’t the Unions be truthful regarding this manner?

    • clearasmud says:

      There are already procedures in place to deal with a failure by either side to abide by a CBA. This is addressed on a case by case basis, but what the Government is attempting to do is legislate against future breeches of the CBA which I think is impossible.

  2. Hmmm says:

    Someone has misinformed theses overseas folks.

    • Quinton Berkley Butterfield says:

      Are you saying that they do not have access to the internet to form their own decisions?

      • jt says:

        Why would they do that if they had information provided directly by their affiliates?
        In any case, reading the above indicates they don’t have all the facts or history of union action in Bermuda.
        Disagreeing with the legal action is one thing, but the way they have framed their letter clearly shows they are misinformed or partially informed.

      • hmmm says:

        Did they use it?

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      Common practice, in an attempt to garner support, the information that seems to be passed to them implies that the government is seeking to infringe on labour rights, when in fact it is to prevent the labour from infringing on employers rights as they have agreed to in CBA’s and labour laws.

  3. Verly says:

    Good show of support from the overseas unions. Maybe the OBA government will open their eyes a bit with the knowledge that the world is watching.

    • hmmm says:

      How about:
      1) you read the ILO guidelines.
      2) you realize that the Union broke their voluntarily agreed CBA.
      3) you wake up and smell the truth that the injunction is there to ensure that any industrial action is in line with the CBA.

      Someone has told the overseas folks a pack of untruths. The world isn’t watching, if you believe it is, then go seek help !

  4. high road says:

    Isnt it unreasonable to think that every member of these affected unions should attend the hearing? I mean c’mon….completely unnecessary.

  5. Tired of it all says:

    From the ILO:

    Notice periods

    In many countries, the law requires workers and their organizations to give a certain period of notice of their intention to strike. In so far as this requirement is conceived as an additional stage in the bargaining process and is designed to encourage the parties to engage in final negotiations before resorting to strike action, it may be seen as a measure taken to encourage and promote the development of voluntary collective bargaining, in accordance with Convention No. 98. However, the required notice period should not be so long as to unduly restrict the right to strike. Moreover, shorter periods of notice should be required where the preceding period of conciliation and mediation is already lengthy and has enabled the remaining matters in dispute to be clearly identified (General Survey, para. 172).

    Notice periods that are applicable in general to all types of establishment should be short, whereas those applying in essential services or services of social or public interest may reasonably be longer. The Committee on Freedom of Association has found the following notice periods in such services to be compatible with principles of freedom of association:

    a 20-day notice period in the case of services of social or public interest (Digest, para. 504); and

    a 40-day notice period in the case of an essential service, provided that the time period is designed to provide the parties with further time for reflection (Digest, para. 505).


    Given the ILO guidelines noted above I suggest that the Government allow the BUT and this overseas entity to take them to the ILO. Based on the above the BTUC and their overseas partners will lose.

    It seems, however, that the BUT and BTUC have misled these organisations into believing that the injunction issued is to stop and prevent all forms of industrial action when in fact it is to prevent the constant wild cat and thus illegal strikes performed regularly by certain local Unions.

    • jt says:

      No….they’re not. And those that are are clearly misinformed. You either don’t understand the case, didn’t read the article, or both.

      • jt says:

        @ tired….apologies…this was meant for Verly.

        Thanks for your post. Clearly shows why the government is seeking an injunction and that local unions are misinforming overseas bodies.

  6. Kangoocar says:

    It is now official, not only does our local unions/plp spread misinformation locally, they now do it internationally!!!!!!!!

  7. spectre says:

    Who cares about the overseas complainers? You don’t hear a peep from them when the Unions are off the chain. They have no jurisdiction here. If the really wanted to support education, the would send a cash grant to help the financially strapped government.

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