Column: ‘Lay Out The Facts’ On Labour Relations

February 21, 2016

[Opinion column written by Minister Michael Fahy]

It is sad indeed to read Mr. Roban’s opinion piece last week which in my view amounts to nothing but a propaganda piece [and poor at that]. However, given that false and misleading information is a hallmark of the opposition, which sadly gets some traction if it is simply ignored; it is useful to lay out the facts.

Given that Mr. Roban clearly suffers from what I call convenient amnesia I remind him that it is this Government that:

  • [i] negotiated an almost 15 month extra 5% Wednesday discount in the major grocery stores that benefitted everyone in Bermuda;
  • [ii] negotiated a two year 10% discount on insurance products at the major local insurance companies for all UNION members;
  • [iii] implemented civil penalties and doubled criminal penalties for employers and employees for breach of immigration law and policy
  • [iv] held two major Economic Tripartite Retreats [September 2013 and October 2014];
  • [v] pledged to rewrite Bermuda’s antiquated labour  laws to bring them in line with International Labour Organisation [ILO] Principles [a process that is on-going];
  • [vi] held regular Labour Advisory Council [LAC] meetings with the participants providing the agenda.  All of this has been completely ignored by Mr. Roban.

Most ridiculously, Mr. Roban said “Minister Fahy’s own actions have caused the suspension of the meetings of the Labour Advisory Council, Tripartite Committee, Labour Law Advisory Committee and damaged the prospects of all future discussions on the compensation of public sectors workers.” What hogwash.  Here is why:

The public will recall that last year a number of public sector unions walked off the job without notice in direct breach of all existing labour legislation and collective bargaining agreements and in direct breach of ILO principles. In fact the Chief Justice of Bermuda deemed those actions illegal.  Such a declaration is practically unprecedented in Bermuda’s history.

It is also a fact that the illegal action taken by some unions led directly to a granting of an almost year-long temporary injunction against a number of unions which saw no strike actions by public sector workers for that period of time – again a time period almost unprecedented in Bermuda’s history.

Let me make something absolutely clear.  This Government is only against illegal union activity – not union activity that is lawful and within the bounds of Bermuda’s existing legislative framework and collective bargaining agreements.

With that said, and given repeated references by Mr. Roban to ILO principles [I assume he is referring to the right to strike principles as laid out by the Committee on the Freedom of Association] I remind him of those principles, all of which the OBA Government believe should be in Bermuda’s legislative framework:

  • [i] The obligation to give prior notice of strike action;
  • [ii] the obligation to have recourse to conciliation, mediation and [voluntary] arbitration procedures in industrial disputes as a prior condition to declaring a strike, provided that the proceedings are adequate, impartial and speedy and that the parties concerned can take part at every stage;
  • [iii] the obligation to observe a certain quorum and to obtain the agreement of a specified majority;
  • [iv] the obligation to take strike decisions by secret ballot;
  • [v] the adoption of measures to comply with safety requirements and for the prevention of accidents;
  • [vi] the establishment of a minimum service in particular cases; and
  • [vii] the guarantee of the freedom to work for non-strikers.

It is clear indeed from these principles that this Government has not taken “repeated action… contrary to ILO Conventions and best international practice to foster good worker/employer relations…”

Finally and for the sake of transparency it is worth me laying out dates of correspondence this Government sent to the BTUC offering to continue dialogue followed by LAC meetings to foster good relations, notwithstanding the court action last year. In mid-June the BPSU and BIU advised the Ministry of Home Affairs that it did not wish to hold meetings whilst the court case was on-going. This was after our invitation to do so.

Following the judgment in January 2016, I wrote to the BTUC suggesting we could enter into constructive dialogue.  After failing to receive any positive response, my Permanent Secretary followed up on 15th February 2016 with the BTUC and other LAC stakeholders suggesting a date and time for an LAC meeting.  Several days later this invitation was rejected by the BTUC who said that they did not want to meet until after the budget debates are concluded. Sadly that will not be until the end of March 2016 at the earliest.

Finally Mr. Roban said “The Ministers  [sic] actions to strangle the rights of Transport Workers, the government’s continued impasse with the Bermuda Police Service, the failure to act as an honest broker around last budget savings negotiations, along with the recently concluded court action brings us to conclude with have a crisis in Labour relations.”.

Mr. Roban clearly does not understand the Minister’s obligation under the various acts, which require the Minister to make a determination as to the existence of labour disputes and make the appropriate reference to arbitration, not to get involved in disputes personally [although if parties request that I do, I make such efforts and have done so].

It is my view that Mr. Roban is totally misinformed and out of his depth. Despite the opposition’s political narrative it is clear that this Government is not anti-union and it is in fact a Government that has every Bermudians’ interest at heart. We remain desirous of having open dialogue with the BTUC and other bodies in the interest of fostering good labour relations. Opposition peddling of cheap and inaccurate information does not assist that goal.

- Minister Michael Fahy


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Comments (39)

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  1. Trisha says:

    Hopefully the
    [iii] implemented civil penalties and doubled criminal penalties for employers and employees for breach of immigration law and policy.
    Is been followed and taken care of.

    • Not exactly says:

      And these two ILO principles which the Unions conveniently seem to ignore
      [i] The obligation to give prior notice of strike action
      [iv] the obligation to take strike decisions by secret ballot

  2. Bermuda rocks says:

    I have been in bermuda for almost ten years now and consider this island like my own home, bermudians are the most happy people I have ever met just because they are friendly and always wiling to help if you are trying to get somewhere or if you need an advise. I have many friends here and I understand the frustration of those who struggle looking for jobs. But to be honest I am not one those using the humanitarian excuse, I work, pay my rent, pay taxes, eat local food and never have I ask a penny because we expats know that if we are here is because we make money, no one is being force to come or gets abused, even the “supposed lower paid workers” find life in Bermuda very comfortable and convenient but in conclusion, there are the ones the give back to the island and there are the ones that only take from it.

  3. Bermuda rocks says:

    I have been in bermuda for ten years now and consider this island like my home, Bermudians are friendly, well coming people anyone can tell you that when they visit the island, as an expat I pay my rent, my taxes, eat the local food. I have many friends here and I understand the frustration some go through looking for jobs. Unlike other expats I don’t use the humanitarian word as excuse to get status. I don’t believe any expat really is abused by his or her employer or nor that gets pay low other wise we wouldn’t be here. I hope things get better and I hope to be able to stay longer.

  4. Ian says:

    Michael Fahy, point blank you’re an arrogant, deluded, egomaniacal hatchet man for the OBA/UBP. You’re a dream come true for folks who were granted status on a discretionary basis, never fully integrated into the Bermuda lived by average real Bermudians, and planned/prayed for the day they would have one of their own calling the shots in my country. You somehow believe “lawyering” your way through everything you attempt to shove down our throats somehow prevents us from seeing the blatant method and pattern in the actions of your government, largely executed by you furthermore. Congratulations for your brazen approach to “sticking to the game plan” through your subsequent stabs at playing people on this island for a bunch of fools. You have single handling worsened relations on this island along racial, national and socioeconomic lines to levels we haven’t seen since the 60s. I hear a lot of rhetoric these days as a result of your actions that is nothing short troubling. Hope you’re proud of yourself in the event the proverbial crap hits the fan.

    • Raymond Ray says:

      Ian, I don’t think I know you personally yet to me you’re coming-off like some racist :-( Minister Fahy has done far-more good, (for everyone) than the Progressive Labour Party had done over their 14 yrs. “behind the wheel” or are presently doing with all the “Tommy rot” we hear from Mr. Roban…
      Most ridiculously, Mr. Roban said “Minister Fahy’s own actions have caused the suspension of the meetings of the Labour Advisory Council, Tripartite Committee, Labour Law Advisory Committee and damaged the prospects of all future discussions on the compensation of public sectors workers.”
      Please Mr. Roban explain to the vast majority just how he has done all this B./S.?

      • Longtail says:

        Ian’s response, Ray, only goes to prove that those who should read the Minister’s comments either will not read, or will not comprehend what he has written, in any case. Trying to reason with people like Ian is a waste of your time mate.

        • Ian says:

          Oh that’s right… Because we just don’t get huh…

          • Onion says:

            You don’t want to get it. You want to believe the PLP even though they are misleading you.

            • Ian says:

              Are you really so foolish as to think I have to read from some PLP doctrine to establish the views I have on this? If that helps you sleep better then run with it mate.

            • Onion juice says:

              Ill take my chances with de Bulgarian guys.

      • Ian says:

        Raymond do you think I give a hoot being called a “racist” by a man (namely yourself) who once posted that what happened to black landowners in Tucker’s Town was in part justified on the basis that whites showed up on these shores first! You’ve made it VERY clear how you process the world yet continue to have the audacity to call folks racist. Check your meds mate.

        • Raymond Ray says:

          In quoting you Ian:”Raymond do you think I give a hoot being called a “racist” by a man (namely yourself) who once posted that what happened to black landowners in Tucker’s Town was in part justified on the basis that whites showed up on these shores first…”
          “Ian” you unfortunately (my friend) are like a dog chasing its own tail :-( The truth is this “Ian” the people were paid handsomely by whites for their land so that we were able to lure visitors to Bermuda to have fun in the sun and of course,(no pun meant)play on the Mid Ocean and Tuckers Points, (Castle Harbour Hotel) Golf courses…By the way, they provided jobs for my many Bermudian…blacks and whites!

      • RBYC member says:

        Sorry to say this Raymond in many statements your correct, but Minister Fahy is the most arrogant OBA Minister yet. The man will be the destruction of the OBA. I have never seen the islands racial tension this high among colored Bermudians.

    • hmmm says:

      Ian, your ego does not fit through doorways !
      Fahy is a reasonable humble man. He works hard for all Bermudians futures. Painting a false picture to destroy a person is wrong. Shame on you.

      • Ian says:

        Fahys actions paint a pretty vivid picture all on their own. You can continue playing dumb all you like. The masses won’t.

        • hmmm says:

          You said on here aimed a Fahy “point blank you’re an arrogant, deluded, egomaniacal hatchet man ”

          So no you admit you actually have no basis for your insults….this guy is working his socks off for all Bermudians. You should be thanking him…..cast off your hate..You learned absolutely nothing from Malcolm X did you.

          • Ian says:

            Really… YOU are seriously going to try and school me on Malcolm X… wow… its like you guys thrive on being ironic…

    • Terry says:

      Must be Betty’s day off.

    • Onion says:

      Did you read the article? Fahy is telling the truth and the PLP are deceiving you. It’s all there in black and white.

      • Loquat Juice says:

        Which oddly enough the favorite train if thought for most of the haters on this island. BLACK and WHITE!!

    • Hoolieh says:

      What garbage! This Country belongs to everyone. We MUST educate our people! We are truly are NOT educated enough.

    • Toma 1 says:

      It’s quite obvious that you have liked your own comment a couple hundred times by refreshing and clearing your cookies. Consider there are no where near that amount of likes of dislikes anywhere else on this page.

    • aceboy says:

      The arrogant deluded egomaniacal bunch got elected OUT of office in 2012. Just a bunch of losers in nice suits.

    • Build a Better Bermuda says:

      Arrogant, yup; ego, yup; deluded… not even close. He has taken on more reality about Bermuda’s situation than the PLP were ever willing to embrace. But since you source your ‘reality’ from the PLP, I wouldn’t expect you to want to understand where we are, and even less, why we are here. Your entire blog history shows that you are nothing more than a PLP ‘yes’ person, happy to gobble up every bit of PLP sound bite, irregardless of who’s bowels have spewed it.
      Now, can you contest any of the statement Minister Fahy has cited; the ones from the ILO or CFA. The reduced insurance rates, who is responsible for not wanting to come back to the LAC, that the judge declared the unions actions illegal (PLP/BIU constantly ignoring this part whenever they make statement about the judgement doesn’t make it any less there). It take 2 to create a conflict, so the unions are not in any fashion innocent in this. In fact if they wish to have reasonable labour relations with the government, then perhaps they should abide by those same ILO guidelines/labour laws/CBA’s they are constantly demanding everyone else abides by; then there would be the need to take them to court for injunctions forcing them to. Course, we all know they don’t want reasonable labour relations with this government, because their masters at Alaska Hall doesn’t want that.

    • Smh says:

      I happen to think that Fahy is one of the best Ministers this island’s ever had. He only wants what’s best for Bermuda and uses facts and logic, not emotion to make decisions. Ian, you constantly bring up race because that’s all you have to offer for any solution. How sad and pathetic. Luckily you’re one of the loud minority….the empty vessel

  5. Kangoocar says:

    It is always refreshing when you read an opinion piece that is based on absolute truths, thanks once again OBA for stating only truthful facts!!! It gets tiresome day after day being inudated with the plp writers who continuesly spew outright falsehoods and nonsense for political gain!!! The plp will not be happy until they have completely destroyed this island!!!!

  6. shutthemdown says:

    Time is running out for the oba/UBP

    They have never cared about the average man. We just managed to get by while they become wealthy.

    We suffer and suffer but as with all things this will end soon.

  7. wahoo says:

    Smashed your cookies bie!

  8. clearasmud says:

    This minister does not seem to understand that he must take responsibility for his own actions. It is never good when a minister cannot rely on the merits of his own actions but dismisses anyone who openly does not agree. Everyone will not always agree with his actions so he has to be better a convincing people of the merits of his proposals. Continuing to try and shift attention to the opposition does not help his cause. He has already accepted that his methods are not always the best when he repeated what Larry Burchall had said about him but still he has not changed his approach!

    • jt says:

      The entire piece was him standing on his own merits and actions. He’s not shifting attention but, once again, correcting lies and half truths.

  9. Silence Do Good says:

    I am no fan of the Senator, but he is right. Deal with the some of the unions is like banging your head against a wall hoping the wall will change or see reality for what it is. Eventually, you get tired and go around.

  10. Disgusted says:

    Please stop the Dance. We don’t believe a word you are saying. All you represent is bad and that shows in your condescending manner when you write this dribble. It is not a game of let’s see if I can win – it’s people’s lives and I am sure every sensible person in Bermuda is looking out for their descendants.

    I have a hard time understanding the English of some of our guest workers now. I can imagine a foreign “NOW” Bermuda Status immigrant -Just About-Speaking English Minister telling me tomorrow that ” Aiy Hev dun dis stuf rong ” eighty times before I give up on the language difficulty and decide that filling out the job application is too stressful for me in my own country. This ISLAND is being HI-JACKED by very EVIL people like you as you double the debt position of once friendly island and look to displace the average born Bermudian.

    “When EVIL men would seek to perpetuate an UNJUST STATUS QUO, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of JUSTICE.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.


  11. Oh,I see now says:

    For good or for bad Fahy is out to prove a point period.

  12. steve says:

    I don’t care If fahy has a big ego,is arrogant (he is lawyer after all) or that he is a momma’s boy that still takes his blanky to bed! Lets admit that for many, He was never liked from day 1?
    I expect him to study a situation,listen to EXPERT advice,consult his think tank,study and consult again… and take the best course action at that time for the betterment of country. I am grateful he isn’t mealy mouthed, aspiring to be loved while accomplishing nothing. He is deliberate methodical, a modern thinker and has a set.
    Lets agree or disagree on proposed policies.

    thank you.