Good day to members of the media and the listening public. Thank you for your attendance and for watching this Press Conference.
In today’s press conference I will provide an update on four (4) areas:
Employment Act and Labour Law changes;
Hamilton Docks Dispute;
Financial Assistance Updates;
Department of Workforce Development Updates.
1. Employment Act and Labour Law changes
On Friday I tabled two critical pieces of legislation:
The Employment Amendment Act 2020; and
The Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 2020.
These two Bills seek to strengthen the rights and obligations of employers and employees in Bermuda’s labour force as well as modernize and clarify areas of the existing legislation to ensure that it is in line with international best practices.
In addition, the legislation will revise the labour dispute mechanisms in Bermuda.
These legislative changes had substantial input from employers, trade union representatives and the Government over the years.
Now let me highlight some of the major amendments to the Employment Act 2000:
1. Probationary Periods – Timeframes have been built into the legislation to avoid the practice of lengthy extensions of the probationary period. Employers will now be required to provide employees with a review of their performance midway through their probationary period so that employees are aware of areas that need improvement to enable successful completion of their probation;
2. Ante-natal Care – Employees are no longer required to work for one completed year before being entitled to paid time off from work to attend ante-natal appointments.
3. Bereavement Leave – Persons for who bereavement leave may be taken has been extended to include grandparents, great-grandparent, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
4. Payment upon Termination – Employers will be required, upon the termination of an employee, to pay any wages and other remuneration or benefits owed to an employee within seven days or at the next interval that the employee would have been paid.
Additions to the Act include:
Independent Contractor – The Labour Relations Manager may issue guidance surrounding the employment relationship as it relates to independent contractors to ensure that persons are not being incorrectly classified;
Meal Breaks – Employees are entitled to a meal break of at least 30 minutes after working continuously for five hours; and
Bullying and Sexual Harassment – Employers are required to have a policy against bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace that applies to all employees. The inclusion of this provision is to ensure that all workers are protected from bullying and sexual harassment at work and from colleagues. This addition follows guidance set out by the ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment in the world of work.
The Employment Amendment Act will come into operation on 1 June 2021 to allow all stakeholders to make the necessary changes to ensure compliance.
Now I turn to the new Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 2020. This legislation is a consolidation of:
The Trade Union Act 1965;
The Labour Relations Act 1975; and
The Labour Disputes Act 1992.
It is important to provide a brief summary of some of the more significant changes contained in this comprehensive and ground-breaking legislation.
Tribunals and Boards of Inquiries – In the current labour legislation in Bermuda, there are the following nine (9) Tribunals and Boards:
1. PERMANENT ARBITRATION TRIBUNAL
2. ESSENTIAL INDUSTRIES DISPUTES SETTLEMENT BOARD
3. TRADE UNION ACT TRIBUNAL
4. LABOUR DISPUTES TRIBUNAL
5. SOLE ARBITRATOR
6. ARBITRATOR WITH ASSESSORS
7. INDEPENDENT CHAIRMAN WITH ARBITRATORS
9. BOARD OF INQUIRY
Additionally, the Employment Act 2000 established the Employment Tribunal to hear employment related complaints.
This new legislation will streamline and consolidate the number of tribunals across all labour and employment legislation into one to be known as the Employment and Labour Relations Tribunal.
This means there will be one Tribunal to handle all employment complaints and labour related disputes. This is a significant improvement on the current state of affairs.
2. Hamilton Docks Dispute
This is a perfect transition into my comments on the recent dispute at the Hamilton Docks. This legislation and the recent actions by unionized workers highlights the importance of good industrial relations and strong mechanisms for dispute resolution.
As Minister of Labour, I was aware from the earliest possible point of the industrial dispute between Stevedoring Services Limited and the Bermuda Industrial Union.
I personally took time to proactively discuss the matter with both parties, in addition to efforts made by the Labour Relations Manager of the Labour Relations Section. There was extensive dialogue in attempts to mediate.
As the dialogue continued, it became clear that the parties were at an impasse and no further progress was being made. You will note that this was even while essential items were still being unloaded by dock workers.
Therefore, in accordance with Section 11 as read with Section 4 of the Labour Disputes Act 1992, as Minister of Labour, I referred the dispute for settlement to the Labour Disputes Tribunal.
Any breakdown in industrial relations is unfortunate. This is especially the case now as we fully consider the state of the economy and the effect that the pandemic has had on jobs. This Government will continue to work with all parties involved to resolve this dispute.
However, now that the matter has been referred to the Tribunal, we must respect the dispute resolution process and allow it to take its course.
I am confident that a resolution to this issue will be reached to enable this essential service to fully resume operations.
3. Financial Assistance Updates
Regarding the total number of Financial Assistance recipients, I can advise that as of November 20, 2020 there is an estimated at 2,163 persons receiving benefits. The breakdown is as follows:
141 are able-bodied unemployed;
769 are disabled;
223 have low earnings; and
1030 are pensioners.
I can also advise that the total number of children on the Financial Assistance Child Day Care Program is 117, which is unchanged from the prior period.
Regarding the total number of persons on the Supplemental Unemployment Fund, I can advise that over the same period, the number of beneficiaries have decreased to 58. This represents a decrease of 36 persons receiving benefits, down from the previous month when we reported that there were 94 recipients. Please note that the decrease in numbers is attributed to 36 persons receiving their redundancy payments. In accordance with the relevant Regulations, the amounts received deemed them no longer eligible for the Supplemental Unemployment Benefits.
At this time, I wish to address the primary concern from the Ministry and Department of Financial Assistance. There remain a number of applicants that fail to complete the applications in FULL. I cannot stress it enough, the importance of completing the application in full.
This trend continues to occur, resulting in significant delays, time wasting, and most importantly, the inability of Government to provide support to those in need. Oftentimes, the incomplete areas of the application include:
No Social Insurance Number;
No Social Insurance Number for the Landlord, which is again in accordance with Government financial instructions to verify and ensure the correct person is paid; and
No bank verification details for the Landlord.
There have also been incidents of dishonesty, with some applicants attempting to hide assets or failing to report all members of the household.
Despite the few who try to take advantage of the system, most are honest citizens doing their best to provide for themselves and their families.
To these persons, I want to remind you that the Government is here to provide assistance in your time of need, but you must do your part and ensure all information is provided in the application in order for you to have a chance of receiving the benefits.
Regarding individuals receiving redundancy packages and as a result are no longer on Financial Assistance. I encourage you use the money wisely and responsibly. Use it to take care of your outstanding debts, to provide items you or your family need, or secure a brighter future for your loved ones. Unlike the COVID
pension relief withdrawals – the redundancy packages are factored in the assessment calculations. This means that many persons will not be eligible for continued Financial Assistance awards as set out in Section 3 of the Financial Assistance Regulations 2004.
Clients for Financial Assistance and the SUB are reminded that any changes in their circumstances MUST be reported immediately. Examples include a change of address, change in banking details, change of employment status, or recent travel.
4. Department of Workforce Development Programme Updates
At this time I have the pleasure of updating the public on the success to date of the Department of Workforce Developments programmes.
MEF Group of Companies Restaurant Training Programme
For starters, I am pleased to announce the MEF Group of Companies Restaurant Training Programme.
The MEF Group of Companies in partnership with the Department of Workforce Development has launched a Food and Beverage, Waiter Server Training programme.
The programme launched last week Monday, 23rd November, will run for fifteen weeks and provide twelve Bermudians opportunities at both the entry level and professional level with on-the-job training. Participants will spend time training in rotation between the twelve (12) MEF Group of company restaurants.
The objectives of the programme are twofold:
To increase the number of qualified Bermudians in the hospitality industry;
To further development a sustainable career path and talent pool of Bermudians.
On successful completion of the training, participants will have earned training at a National Standard that meets the requirements of Bermuda’s tourism and hospitality industry. Furthermore, all twelve participants will be hired as full-time employees in various positions at each restaurant location.
The success of this programme, as well as others, will be replicated to add additional cohorts of training for Bermudians to gain employment as the economy begins to rebound.
Industry-Driven Training Programmes
Now on to the subject of industry-driven training programmes. Many would have seen or heard the advertisements ran over the past few weeks by the Department of Workforce Development, informing and inviting Bermudians to register for a number of training programmes and occupations identified by industry stakeholders. They included, but are not limited to:
Certified Cleaning Technicians;
Certified Administrative Assistant;
Graduate Trainee Programme; and the
Learn-to-Earn and Food and Beverage/Waiter Server Training programmes.
I am pleased to inform the public that all seven of the accredited training programmes were oversubscribed.
It is anticipated that the programmes will continue to be offered along with a provision for sponsorship, based on need and demand, in occupations where Bermudians could be employed and guest workers have repatriated.
For further information on these training programmes, please logon to www.bermudajobboard.bm or contact the Department of Workforce Development at 297-7714.
Apprenticeship Training Programme
I will now give an update on the Apprenticeship Training Programme and can advise that in partnership with the industrial trade industry, the Department of Workforce Development have increased the number of apprenticeship trainees. The breakdown is as follows:
Two at Bermuda Electric Light Company;
One at E&G Carpentry;
One at Brilliant Solutions;
Two at Universal Electrical;
One at Otis Elevator;
One at Sunnyside Solar Limited; and
One at Strike Force Carpentry Company.
This is a total of nine new apprenticeship trainees.
I am pleased at the progress made to date but there is much work to be done before Bermuda and the world will emerge out of this crisis.
I have said this before, and it begs repeating. The people of Bermuda have entrusted this Government to lead, but we must also all work together.
I would like to thank the entire staff of the Ministry of Labour and all its related Departments for all their efforts and dedication during these unprecedented times. For all those who are working seven days a week and 12 hour days, we see the sacrifice that you are making for the benefit of this country. We thank you for the time spent away from your families and homes.