The Bermuda Trade Union Congress (BTUC) comprises of seven (7) affiliate unions and workers’ organisations, representing approximately 9,000 workers in Bermuda. Currently, there are approximately 65 active collective agreements in place between BTUC affiliates and employers.
The 70 collective agreements focus on working conditions and terms of employment which include wages, hours of work, annual bonus, annual leave, sick leave, maternity leave, occupational health and safety, procedures for dispute resolution, the right of trade unions and managements. Collective agreements take precedence over individual contracts of employment, while recognizing stipulations in individual contracts that are more favourable to workers.
Collective agreements are reached after a process of joint decision-making between employers and workers known as collective bargaining. It is the written collective agreement that legally binds workers and employers to the outcomes of the bargaining process.
In Bermuda, collective bargaining is the social dialogue which takes place between employers and workers’ organisations, and is commonly referred to as negotiations. Collective bargaining is the process used to determine working conditions and terms of employment, and to regulate the relationship between employers and workers.
Section 30L of Bermuda’s Trade Union Act 1965 makes collective bargaining compulsory for any union which has obtained certification in respect to a bargaining unit (group of workers).
- The Act states: “Where a union has obtained certification in respect of a bargaining unit and the certification remains in force, the employer shall deal with that union accordingly; and the union and the employer shall, subject to this Part, in good faith treat and enter into negotiations with each other for the purposes of collective bargaining.”
In order for a union to obtain certification to bargain on behalf of a group of workers in Bermuda, the process is quite simple and consists of the following:
- 35 percent of the proposed bargaining unit must express interest to a union
- The union will then file for certification with the Government’s Labour Relations Manager
- The manager will then arrange for a certification ballot to be held in the workplace
- If 51 percent of the workers that vote in the ballot vote in favour of the union, the union will be certified as the exclusive bargaining agent for that group of workers and collective bargaining will commence
Collective bargaining is a fundamental principle and is considered an enabling right enshrined in the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) conventions and recommendations.
The four major ILO conventions and recommendations on collective bargaining include:
- The Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention 1948 (No.87)
- The Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1981 (No.54)
- Collective Bargaining Recommendation, 1981 (No.163)
Despite the reality that employers and unions may come to the bargaining table with different interests, collective bargaining is used to build trust and mutual respect between employer, workers and their unions, and contributes to stable and productive labour relationships.
- Feature Photo Courtesy of DCI, Inset Courtesy of BPSU