Roban: Victory For Bermudian Workers & Unions

January 18, 2016

Following the ruling in the Supreme Court, Shadow Minister of Home Affairs Walter Roban congratulated the Unions, saying it “represents not only a victory for Bermudian workers and our unions, but also a victory for all who seek to preserve the long fought for constitutional and legal rights for working people.”

The Chief Justice handed down his ruling in the dispute involving the Unions and Government, saying that while the Unions “acted unlawfully” in “taking irregular action short of a strike”, he refused to grant the Government’s application for permanent injunction as it would “serve as a threat hanging over the Respondents’ head.”

The case was the Minister of Home Affairs v BIU, BPSU, BUT, Prison Officers Association and Fire Officers Association; and was predicated by the 3-day industrial action in January of last year over furlough days.

Video compilation showing a quick look at the dispute in January of last year:

Mr Roban said, “The Bermuda Progressive Labour Party [PLP] congratulates the Bermuda Trade Union Congress [BTUC] on the victory in the Supreme Court against the OBA government in its effort to obtain a permanent injunction against the BTUC.

“This represents not only a victory for Bermudian workers and our unions, but also a victory for all who seek to preserve the long fought for constitutional and legal rights for working people.

“The filing of this injunction by OBA Minister of Home Affairs Micheal Fahy was viewed by the Trade Union community and the Labour Movement as an attack on the fundamental right of workers. ‎This move was reminiscent of the failed attempt by the then UBP government to enforce sequestration orders on unions in the 1990s.

“The PLP supports all efforts to protect and empower all workers. We stand by the rights of unions to defend their members when it is clear their welfare and position are at risk.

“We further support the fact that unionized workers felt duty bound to act on the letter from the OBA Finance Minister Bob Richards of January 23, 2015, which the Chief Justice described as a “… threat by Government to fundamentally breach the public workers contracts by sending them home unpaid if they did not agree to extend furlough days…”‎.

The PLP is pleased that Court has brought forward a judgement that does not interfere with future opportunities for workers to preserve reasonable contractual obligations with their employer.

“Despite the OBA’s abysmal record as an honest broker with Bermuda’s trade unions, we hope that this judgement will cause a change in the OBA’s approach towards Bermuda’s unions and that a relationship based on honesty and mutual respect can be built going forward.

“The Progressive Labour Party understands the importance of productive relationships with local unions, and as such the next PLP government will vigorously pursue the conformation of our labour laws, in line with the Constitution of the International Labour Organization [ILO] with regard to ratified Conventions.

“As there were no objections by Bermuda when the UK ratified the eight core Conventions, we will press for our Labour law to be aligned as per the obligations we have in regard to the ratification of all the ILO’s core conventions.”

The 45-page ruling follows below [PDF here]:

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Comments (36)

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  1. Claudio says:

    The whole point of it going this far was because the strike was illegal. Furthermore, why didn’t the unions put the issue of the furlough day proposal to its membership? Workers got used IMV to showboat Union power/support and we (the workers) fell for it. How you would fight against a furlough day but yet in your negotiations agreed to suspend pension contributions for 1 year?

    • Coffee says:

      Your comment makes perfect sense if you have absolutely no idea of how things actually works , or in this case worked .
      Did you know that the idea of the furlough day was originally put forward by the unions ?
      Are you aware that the government embraced and agreed that the furlough day period would have a start date and a difinate end date ?
      Do you agree that Bob Richards had the Devine right to demand by ultimatum an undefined extension of the furlough day on the labour force that makes Bermuda work ?
      I’m sure that if you knew the facts then maybe such an asinine statement would never have formed first in your brain … But then again ….

      • Coffee says:

        Most importantly , I must inform you that the ‘illegal’ strike was a direct response to a vicious letter sent to the union body by the man under the hood .
        In return the unions walked the talk !

        • BINGO says:

          Vicious response? Grow up

          • Onion Juice says:

            Well the next they want to use bully tactics, they would use the Diplomatic process.
            SpongeBob drew his sword and then got a beat down.

            • Jus' Wonderin' says:

              umm…..not really try again!

            • Proof is in the pudding says:

              Do you mean the part where the judge said the strikes were illegal? Or did I miss something?

            • Build a Better Bermuda says:

              Beat down… Another interesting overstatement. Let’s look at the event. The minister sends a poorly written, blunt letter asking for the unions to come back with a response from their members in relation to an extension of the furlough days. In response, the unions executives did not consult with their membership, but instead, under the guise of calling a meeting to discuss this, lead their members on 3 days of illegal industrial to prevent the minister from taking an action that he could have only taken if the unions agreed to.
              Now here is where it gets ‘beat down’ exaggeration part. With the government calling for the unions to return to the table, the unions leadership declared they would not negotiate with the government unless furlough days were off the table… after 2 days, the unions returned to the table with furlough days still on the table… who won that round. The government presents the only other options left to them to cut expenditures without cutting the CS, with the clarity that the unions had to accept them as understanding that they were equally responsible for them. These were options that they obviously didn’t want to have to do, otherwise they would have lead with them rather than the furlough days. These were options that would result in the cutting from social programs, and the unions agreed without question or discussion. At the end of the negotiations, the government requested that they hold any announcement of success until they could properly check the numbers, instead, the unions hold a late night press conference, announcing success and that furlough days were done… when in fact, according to the minutes of the meeting, it was not final as they still had to check the numbers and that furloughs were not completely written off unless the numbers could be shown to survive real world conditions. Again the unions mislead their members and public and now a judge has ruled them in violation of the laws and contracts… so how is this a beat down. Next time the unions will have to use diplomacy first as well otherwise they will find themselves in a legally beat down.

        • bluwater says:

          Oh yeah, the unions are so powerful, making everyone late for work and leaving the school kids at the side of the road for an illegal strike. Hurray for them.

      • claudio says:

        As a civil servant I am well aware of the start and end date. I was there when members from the Ministry of finance did their presentation.

        The fact that the Ministry has having discussions of continuing the furlough day with the unions – and the unions making decisions without having discussions with the membership is a fact. IMV the unions should have at least consulted with the membership the minute Govt asked to continue with the furlough. People seem to have selective amnesia pre Dec 2012 – I recall the types of discussions we were having right before the 2012 elections.

      • Build a Better Bermuda says:

        Hate to break this to you, but Claudio’s had more substance of thought in it than your empty rant… to which you failed to fully address. Why didn’t the unions consult their membership prior to making an unilateral decision by only the executive branch to take illegal action that was entirely uncalled for? It was completely within the unions power to say no to furlough days without a 3 day tantrum… only thing government did was highlight that there needed to be cuts (granted it was done in the blunt way that that only someone who speaks better with numbers than with words can). The resulting negotiations ended up seeing social services take a cut, rather than employed work force, and that is why it was given to the unions to approve as well, they were as much responsible for what was cut as the government was for proposing them… only difference was the government didn’t want to have to look at cutting social services as they did, which is why they were looking to the unions to agree to sharing the burden. Finally, ‘vicious’ is a typically overstated exaggeration to describe that letter, often stated that way by those trying to justify the flaccid bully tactic that was used to respond to it… at best, insensitive should be employed.

  2. Congratulations on Unlawful activity says:

    I believe the judge said that the activity was unlawful and that he laid down a very dire warning about the future finanical status of the country.

    Surely this should be a wake up call for all parties to act maturely and responsibily to tackle a significant problem this counry has and that will endure into the future.

    Please forgive me Mr Roban, buy your piece appears to be simple political spin void of forward looking thought. If you had said that this provides the basis upon which all parties can embark on a new direction of dialouge to solve the country’s problems while protecting the positoins of each concerned–well then, most right thinking Bermudinas might have been able to believe and get behind you.

    Very short sighted approach for a leader–sorry sir.

    • North Rock says:

      Absolutely right….and political spin is all he seems to know. The judge basically said he wasn’t going as far as a blanket denial BUT he did say that if either party breaks the contracted agreement, it is illegal. So a very small break to the unions…but try breaking the law and you’ll soon find yourself telling it to the judge.

  3. hmmm says:

    If workers still get paid, whilst walking off the job Bermuda loses. If Bermuda loses, those workers walking off the job also lose.

    Making people think they have won by kicking themselves repeatidly is sick. The unions need to stop this behavior.

  4. clearasmud says:

    It is interesting to see Mr. Fahy try to spin the result. The fact is people knew they were acting illegally but they were so incensed by that threat from the finance minister that they felt compelled to act. To me the biggest thing to come out of that ruling is that although what the Finance minister said in the letter about possible job losses was “true” it was deemed by the Court to have provoked the situation.

    • Proof is in the pudding says:

      Why don’t we just wait and see what happens next time there’s an illegal walkout….mmmm?

    • Funny says:

      Strong emotional responses to negative stimuli do not justify illegal activity.

  5. bluebird says:

    The WORKERS “WON” the day,good for them and now we will have to have less workers because we cannot afford the ones we have got.
    Still “BORROWING” $220Million dollars per year to keep them paid for doing nothing.
    And how long do they think this will go on???

  6. Truth is killin' me... says:

    Not to worry. When this island gets to the point that it has no money to pay anybody f#x, including politicians and hard talkin’ union bosses…you will all get the message!

  7. Comcerned says:

    Bermuda is likely the only place in the world where the people (bermudians) are lazy workers and rewarded for poor work ethic.

  8. Toleratate says:

    You say potato, I say…. Oh well, you know the rest.

  9. swing voter says:

    I’ve consulted my fortune teller……

    BDA Govt doesn’t even collect enough taxes and keep raiding the petty cash in the pension kitty to subsidize other expenses…we all have to grow up and realize that the next step is either IMF or direct management from UK…..some idiot will cause a ground swell of support for independence…..and watch the money run in more than one way.

  10. WillSee says:

    And this man will be our new MP too!

  11. Walk in their shoes says:

    I think what much of the public would prefer is either strikes to be the last step (instead of the second), or that decent notice of strikes be published instead of sudden walkouts that inconvenience the public. Is it too much to hope for?

  12. Triangle Drifter says:

    I guess Roban did not read the judgement. If he did maybe he does not understand the part where the judge found that the unions “acted unlawfully” in “taking irregular action short of a strike”. I know some of this legal stuff is very complex.

    • James Rego says:

      @Triangle Drifter
      You do realize that Roban is a lawyer?

      • Triangle Drifter says:

        Actually no I did not. He did not see that part of the judgement I guess. If he did & did not understand it, WOW, just WOW.

  13. aceboy says:

    A victory for the illegal actions of a few. Two different laws it seems here, one for the YunYun and one for the rest of us.

  14. Just a matter of time says:

    What was there to discuss from the union to take to the membership??? The furlough day contract always had a previously negotiated END date of March 31st! Minister Richards was bullying through another arrangement with this letter late in January in a panic because they realized they were about to lose precious furlough money come April 1st. As late as January with only two months to go! No planning, nothing. It’s like me finishing up a contract providing services with someone and as the contract is about to end I’m being forced to continue beyond the end date because the provider is not ready for me to finish up yet! A contract is a contract! What was there for the members to negotiate? They were simply waiting for the existing agreed upon contract of furlough days between them and Govt to end on March 31st. That’s it. The Union action was a direct result from Ministerial bullying nothing more.

    • Tired of it all says:

      I suggest you go back to articles, issued during this whole saga, and read the timelines of negotiations that took place. Your claims of no negotiations before the issuance of the letter is false and blatant misinformation.

      “A contract is a contract!”

      Absolutely spot on. And unfortunately, but predictably, the Unions broke theirs by engaging in illegal and premature (as Govt didn’t break any law or labor contract) industrial action as noted by the Chief Justice. Only one party in this dispute failed to abide by the contract and it isn’t the Government as you have inferred.

  15. gunsmoke says:

    The victory for workers was when the plp were voted out,

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