Column: LAC, An Excellent Model Of Tripartism

August 8, 2018

[Written by BPSU President Jason Hayward]

The Labour Advisory Council [LAC] was established by the former Governor Lord Martonmere in response to the labour and social unrest that occurred during the early 1960s. The LAC was utilised as a mechanism to include labour in the social dialogue that was occurring between government and employers.

The LAC is currently a non-statutory Government board chaired by the Minister of Home Affairs. The aim of the LAC is to ensure consensus amongst the stakeholders and to recommend changes to legislation, policies and standards surrounding Bermuda’s labour force. The LAC also promotes and advances industrial peace and stability.

Jason Hayward Bermuda TC August 7 2018

The LAC utilises tripartism as the form of social dialogue in its meetings. Tripartism is defined by the International Labour Organization as “the interaction of government, employers and workers [through their representatives] as equal and independent partners to seek solutions to issues of common concern.” Tripartite social dialogue can act as a major catalyst to improve economic conditions and is a proven mechanism for promoting better living and working conditions.

Tripartism is extremely effective as it allows for the views of each side to be taken into consideration when decisions are made, leading to better outcomes. Tripartism is a model typically used in the formation of wage setting boards, economic boards and productivity commissions in various countries. Tripartism has been the primary factor which lead to the transformation and growth of the Singaporean economy. The use of a consultative problem-solving approach was used to effectively tackle a stagnant economy.

The LAC meets quarterly, however, there are a number of active LAC sub-committees that meet on a more frequent basis to tackle some of the current challenges facing Bermuda’s labour force. The LAC sub-committees are essentially tripartite working groups formulated to advance living and working conditions. Currently, there are four [4] active sub-committees which include:

1. The Gratuities Sub-Committee

Concerns were raised by the Minister of Home Affairs regarding the alleged disproportionate allocation of gratuities to staff in some non-unionised service establishments. It has been reported that in some establishments, management retain the majority of gratuities paid by customers to compensate workers for service received. The Gratuities Sub-Committee is charged with exploring the extent to which workers are being disadvantaged by managements’ retention of gratuities and the disproportionate allocation of gratuities amongst staff, with an aim to recommend a fair resolution to the challenges faced in the service industry.

2. The Contract Employment Sub-Committee

Complaints were also lodged with the LAC that in a number of industries some employers are transitioning full-time workers to contract employment or vendor contracts to avoid having to pay the benefits associated with full-time employment as prescribed by the Employment Act 2000. The Contract Employment Sub-Committee is examining the extent to which persons employed in an employee/employer relationship are not obtaining the benefits they should be entitled to as a result of being called contractors. In addition, the Sub-Committee is tasked with providing recommendations on how the problem can be resolved and/or mitigated.

3. The Retirement Age Sub-Committee

Retirement age discrimination affects many people in Bermuda. Workers are prevented from continuing employment after 65 years of age and are not being afforded employment opportunities as they approach retirement age. The primary function of the Retirement Age Sub-Committee is to review the retirement age [65] in alignment with our current ageing population and provide recommendations to the LAC and the Minister of Home Affairs on whether adjustments should be made. This Sub-Committee will assess the current workforce and propose practical workplace considerations for an ageing labour force and the issue of retirement age discrimination. The Sub-Committee will prepare a report containing recommendations for submission to the LAC and the Minister of Home Affairs.

4. The Labour Law Reform Sub-Committee

The Bermuda Trade Union Congress [BTUC] requested that the Government commit to modernise and consolidate our current labour legislation. This matter was brought to the LAC and the Labour Law Reform Sub-Committee was established to provide the Minister of Home Affairs with recommendations on changes to labour legislation. This Sub-Committee has completed its work and the Minister has been provided with the recommendations agreed by consensus.

Tripartite social dialogue has brought a greater level of effectiveness to decision-making and is a mechanism that should be utilised as much as reasonably possible.

- Jason Hayward


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