BWI Women Workers Feature Renee Jones

April 1, 2024 | 0 Comments

[Written by Patrick Bean]

In recognition of contributions made to worldwide trade unionism Bermuda Industrial Union [BIU] Treasurer Renée Jones is featured within the Building and Wood Workers’ International’s [BWI] just released 2024 Women Workers’ Calendar.

Jones picture is affixed to the month of December along with a brief personal journey narrative under the theme Women Workers for Democracy.

The recently unveiled BWI monthly chart presents, “the remarkable stories of women trade unionists from across the globe, showcasing their inspiring struggles and unwavering leadership in the fight for labour rights, safer workplaces, and gender equality”.

Renée Jones Bermuda April 2024_2

Similarly featured are 11 other female trade union affiliates from North Macedonia, Spain, Ukraine, Philippines, India, Australia, Palestine, Senegal, Kenya, Bermuda, Panama, Brazil, and the United States.

Jones, who prefers to operate away from the spotlight, was humbled by the unexpected laurel bestowed.

“I was honoured to be invited to be part of the 2024 Women’s Calendar of the BWI, which was a global initiative to feature women trade unionist showcasing their inspiring struggles and leadership in our various workplaces throughout the trade union movement,” said Jones, who has been employed at Bermuda’s largest trade union for the past 25 years. “The BIU are affiliates of several global unions and within this particular organization — BWI — I sit on the Regional Women’s Committee as well as the World Council, and was recently appointed to the Joint Ad Hoc Working Group on Climate Justice.”

However, Jones’ journey to the hierarchy of world’s labour movement was not a planned venture, but one borne out of necessity.

It was in the fall of 1997 that a 21-year-old Renée Pitt ventured into the Bermuda Industrial Union [BIU] premises to commence work as an entry level clerical worker.

Renée Jones Bermuda April 2024_1

At the time the single mother’s main aim was to earn a wage sufficient to ensure the welfare of herself and a young daughter nearing primary school-age, with such real life responsibilities and demands having placed harboured college aspirations firmly on the back burner.

However, little did Jones realise that her nondescript entrance into a traditionally male dominated and controlled organisation of trade workers labour establishment field would begin a more than two decades long odyssey, one that would continue to alter the status and face of labour in Bermuda and beyond, improving also the plight of women within the workforce.

Encouraged and mentored by BIU leaders, the likes of presidents Chris Furbert and Derrick Burgess and Education Officer Collin Simmons, the yet ongoing voyage has taken Jones to global destinations far and wide, as well as placing her in various influential capacities. Situations Jones, the young adult, never fathomed during those early moments.

“I started at the union at 21, so I literally grew up in the trade union movement, but it wasn’t until well in to my employment here that I realized the real significance of the organization,” said Jones, now a married mother of two and holding as one of her executive titles that of BIU Treasurer.

“Looking back at the last ten years as a sitting officer and female trade union leader, I can honestly say that I have received strong support from both current and former BIU presidents Brothers Chris Furbert and Derrick Burgess, the former Education Officer Brother Collin Simmons and my mentor and predecessor Brother Cecil Durham. These men not only recognised my abilities but respected my contributions.

“Brother Collin Simmons was key in helping me navigate the challenges I faced as the union’s youngest leader at the time, in fact he recognized my potential for leadership long before I did, and therefore I often used him as a sounding board when I felt challenged in my role.

“The journey has provided me with so many opportunities to experience the world of the trade union movement on a global level, travelling to South Africa, Switzerland, Australia, Argentina, Suriname and many other Caribbean islands .

“My service to the organization goes beyond my responsibility as Treasurer of the BIU. By extension of this service, I also serve as President of the Bermuda Credit Union Board, Treasurer of the Bermuda Trade Union Congress and Treasurer of the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions based in St. Kitts.

“These leadership positions have pushed me out of my comfort zone and stretched me in areas beyond where I might normally take myself, so I am thankful for the growth and yes, very proud to be able to make valuable contributions at the highest levels.”

Furbert deemed Jones’ being honoured as justified based on her previous and continuing diligence in aiding in the advancement of workers’ rights, conditions and input toward balancing the employment field.

“I think it’s well deserved, If you look at her record and involvement within the trade union movement the last 25 years she has worked in finance. She worked her way up to become the Treasurer of the BIU.

“She’s now the president of the Bermuda Credit Union and she’s also the Treasurer of the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions [CCCU].

“I believe her accomplishments speak for themselves. She’s a team player, who has the expertise and the knowledge to fulfil the roles she has attained and the reason why she’s in those positions.”

“I think if you look internationally the media have been telling us for a many years that we need to get more females involved in our committees.

“When we‘re sending people to conferences we make sure that they’re made up of equal numbers male and female and our BIU Executive Board is now 50/50, with five Brothers and five Sisters.

“So, we recognise the need for women’s involvement within the trade union movement and I think we can look back as Dr [Barbara] Ball’s involvement with the BIU, Sister Molly’s [Burgess] involvement and see how the BIU has always had females — or Sisters — involved in the trade union movement.”

Former union leader Burgess echoed Furbert’s sentiments, noting Jones’ willingness to take on every challenge presented.

Said Burgess: “I’m certainly proud of Renee, in where she started and where she is now. She’s always been willing to learn something new and she took it on.

“Despite being a single mom she put the time in to get the knowledge that would be required and was not afraid of a challenge.

“The fact that she has risen to become the treasurer of the union and president of the Credit Union shows her eagerness to excel and learn and become what she is today.”

Still Jones believes there to be more work to be done to further balance the culture, allowing for women to flourish to their full potential, and so raise the overall standard and effectiveness of the movement.

“Women need to continue to build a more inclusive and supportive environment,” she said. “There’s a lot of focus on young men, but female mentorship is just as important.

“Required are more guidance, more emotional support to boost confidence, more discussions around work life balance, and more help in general to navigate challenges that are unique to women.

“Even as my personal journey may have been more so supported than those of women in other jurisdictions, it doesn’t negate the fact that a shift is needed in the tone and overall culture of any organization that is or was typically dominated by men.

“Women bring a different, invaluable set of skills and must be at tables in decision making capacities to shape policies and culture.

“On a global scale it is encouraging to see there is a shift in the acceptance and encouragement of women in leadership.”

Read More About

Category: All, News

Leave a Reply