In solidarity with the CoH workers

As many people now know their are some ongoing industrial issues over at the Corporation of Hamilton which has forced the workers there to down tools last week, and again yesterday – and this time indefinetely.

There are a series of issues, concerning management practices and general disrespect, to date that have contributed to the situation there. The ‘straw that broke the camels backl’ would appear to have been a switch to direct bank deposit wage payments. This in itself is not neccessarily a bad thing, but there are issues around it, and the arrogance of the Corporation was ably demonstrated by their failure to ensure that all workers would get paid, resulting in several workers not being compensated for their labour. This was the spark for the action last Monday.

The spark for this weeks actions seem to be the retalitory firing of two workers involved in the unrest last week, despite the CoH giving a public committment to act in good faith, something they very clearly have not in these actions.

I have not been able to communicate directly with the CoH Workers Council and their JCC, but once I do I will do my best to present their position more clearly than the filter of the media to date has.

The struggle of any worker is the struggle of all workers, and all workers should seek to better understand the situation currently unfolding in the CoH, and investigate ways with which they can offer solidarity, even if it is as small a thing as bringing a hot cup of soup to the striking workers, or as big a thing as calling for, and executing sympathy strikes in other sectors.

It appears the two workers have been reinstated; industrial action however is set to continue until all concerns are addressed and the CoH has sufficiently learnt its lesson on the price of arrogance.

More soon.

14 thoughts on “In solidarity with the CoH workers

  1. In Bermuda the struggle of some workers is NOT the struggle of all workers. These was a time when many of the working conditions in todays Bermuda would have recieved visable and vocal exposure, and even general strike action to bring about change. Than level of worker power and solidarity hasnt happened since the change in government. In the blue collor sector and the trades, there has been an increase in the amounts of import workers, and a poor increase in the measures to monitor that process. Rising numbers of unqualified individuals entering the workforce from overseas, rising cases of worker exploitation of Bermudians and import workers. While the bodies who are supposed to be watchdogging these situations (Ministry of labour and the BIU) sit in silence due to political/and or financial conflicts of interest…IE the high ranking members of the BIU who happen to be PLP members supporters and elected officials. They dont act cause they dont wanna make their party look bad by exposing the simple fact that govt itself is breaking the laws of the land. An example….look at all of the public/private partnerships to bring online affordable housing, how many of thoes job sited are following the labour laws and not exploiting the workers?
    If the exploited workers were to be treated fairly according to our laws, it would mean vast deductions from the profit margins of local companies who are benifiting from breaking our laws.
    The working class has always been under attack in this island, and while many families have risen to the middle class from the working class, that progress has and is being eroded under this so called Labour govt. beacuse the lack of interest in making sure ALL workers recieve the same equal and fair treatment that some do.

  2. I disagree with your initial statement, ‘In Bermuda the struggle of some workers is NOT the struggle of all workers.’ In fact, reading over the rest of your argument I see nothing that supports this statement; rather it seems to agree with the position that any workers struggle is the struggle of all workers. Perhaps I am misunderstanding?

    I would agree with your argument about how the groups supposed to be serving as the ‘watch-dogs’ for labour, or advocating in the interests of labour have been doing a less than stellar job in this regards. I am inclined to support your argument that there are some conflicts of interest concerning the BIU and the Party/Government that are, well, worrying.

    The Party grew out of the BIU, it is the ‘political wing’ of the labour movement to quote Bro Chris Furberts press statement in the run-up to the December 18th election. In that statement, which was reproduced in the Workers Voice, he puts forward the position of support for the Party, advocating all Union members to vote for the Party in the then upcoming election. Noticeably though he did allude to not exactly being happy with the track-record of the Labour Government to date, but alludes to a UBP return to power being worse for Labour.

    I would support this general argument of his, and readily acknowledge that the PLP has done a lot for labour since becoming Government, the Employment Act 2000 coming to mind. However the Government has several times disappointed labour and caved in to the Bda Employers Council on a few occasions, the more noticeable issues being the demand for a 35-hour week and overtime legislation.

    There was a general trend of many workers demobilising following the 1998 election, there was a sense that with the PLP in power now they could leave things in the hands of the Party. I think this was a mistake, and the last ten years have shown this to be the case. One could understand the argument that in the initial period the Party would seek not to rock the metaphorical boat, but such an initial period has long since passed. In such a situation power was ‘entrusted’ to the hands of union and Party bureaucracy, of parliamentarians. Rather than use this power for profound political and social change to benefit labour we have seen little more than a few more ‘bones to the dogs’ while business carries on pretty much as usual. Any profound social and political change would render the various bureaucrats and parliamentarians unneccessary; rather they have sought to dominate and control for their own self-interests.

    It is necessary to counter the limited vision of business unionism, that limits itself to defensive measures, to acceptance of the status quo socio-economic model. It is also necessary to counter the belief that power can be entrusted in the hands of bureaucrats and parliamentarians.

    Substituting militancy and grassroots democracy with bureaucrats who ‘speak for’ labour has seen nothing but capitulation to the capitalists, to the bosses. Its necessary to adopt a pragmatic approach within the existing system to work towards reforms, but not to limit the movement solely to a handful of reforms and the self-interests of a labour aristocracy.

    I should say that the Union is aware of the exploitation of foreign workers, and does do a lot behind the scenes, but there is a lot more that could be done, and yes, I do believe certain elements of the bureaucracy, both within the Union and the Party do sabatoge grassroots action and militancy, with the desire to save the Government embarrassment. This only leads to increasing dismay and apathy amongst the working class, feelings that breed false consciousness in the form of nationalism, mysticism and fascist ideologies.

    The foreign workers are being brought in because they can be exploited better than local workers, be it due to alienation from Bdian society (by virtue of their having no local support base, etc.) or due to economic conditions in their homelands. This serves two goals for the capitalists; on the one hand it serves to depress the general wages for all workers, and on the other hand it allows for the division of the workers through xenophobia and nationalism. The struggle of the foreign workers is intimately connected to the conditions of Bdian workers, and it is the duty of all to fight against the xenophobia that further alienates our foreign workers and reduces class solidarity and the success of the struggle.

    What progress that has been made under this Government deserves to be appluaded, but it also remains necessary for all workers to say more needs to be done, and to mobilise to either increase the pressure from below to ensure more is done. Alternatively the duty is to replace the existing structures with a more particpatory economy and society.

  3. “The Party grew out of the BIU” – how do u think that the political needs of the PLP/beda govt. and the worker’s needs can be both served? i think that outside of socialist countries bda is the only “capitalist” country who’s govt. was an off shoot of a labour union. yes? of so their probably no easily definable road map that the BIU and PLP can follow.

  4. ‘In Bermuda the struggle of some workers is NOT the struggle of all workers.’ This means that certain employment areas recieve different treatment in this society. IE consruction/trades have different representation and worse treatment than teachers, bus drivers, hotel workers etc. It used to be when one group of workers have a problem they would get support of all workers etc etc, perhaps its based on how many members are in a particular union or division that prompts them to act differntlI thought my point was yclear, there are doubble standards in worker representation.
    Furbert should have grown a pair and held the political wing accountable during the election run up, and put them on notice with a list of workers demands instead of kissing their asses by tellin dem how great a job they r doing by bringin in x amount of money to the economy that only reached the worker on a trickle down basis.
    This is not leadership.
    The BIU has sold out the workers of this island and Im sure the founders didnt have this type of crap in mind when the BIU was founded.
    Worrying? man thats de understatement of de yr so far. This worring trend as u call it plays out on every level of govt. As far as political and economic conflicts of intrest preventiing proper governance. And effectivly blocking the rise of the working class to middle class and above.
    Yea they know, as far as them doing something behind the scenes….what r they doing besides their best not to rock the boat? U seem to know something, explain. The workers tried to have the issues adressed, with viable soultions, no action, no movement were the results. Go talk to the BIu construction division leaders.
    Only the workers in the field can say they are doing something. That something will take the form of changes in the conditions. Till that happens they aint doing a dammed thing but apeasing people foolish enuff to fall for the loud bellowing of a toothless dog…”all bark n no bite’…should be the new slogan of the BIU. ACts that are not enforced r equal to soiled toilet paper. People are turning blind eyes to certain activities cause of the money n thats corruption.
    The govt is supposed to be the forign workers support base. by enforcing its own laws and enforcing human rights legislation, 2 people doing de same job gettin different rates of pay well below the Bermuda standars = modernday slavery.
    They dont care about a few grass root slaves making noise. they have got what they were after, got voted back in power now so its business as usual. The PLP n the BIU are the capitilists. I bet the founding fathers n mothers of both groups didnt see this comming!!
    So the question still remains, y is it that the plp grass roots turn blind eyes to these “worring” trends? Y is it that none of this is addressed n fixed? Is too much power being put in de hands of the central comittee? Has access to power and money changed the plp, have the revolutionaries now become babylon? I and many others think so.
    So when u plp insiders who are supposed to control the government gonna do something besides agree with these kinda points in private and do nothing to fix your party n get em back on de track de founders intended? “The plp is out ubping the ubp” Julian hall.

  5. Son of Obatala – do u attend party/union meetings and speak out about these issues? a party/union is simply a vessel for people’s ideas and visions – if u have good ideas u should express them and start the process.

    “is it that the plp grass roots turn blind eyes to these “worring” trends?”

    ur the grassroots and if it really is ”all bark n no bite’ – then u need to do what u can to change that. and i don’t mean for that to sound condescending but even within teh struggle there are smaller struggles

  6. I and others know wa we know and talk bout wa we talk bout cause we have already been on de inside and attempted to do wa u suggest n wa i described is wa we all found, so cutt de crap that we just empty vessels makin noise 4 no reason. Besides pickin up guns and holding em to them heads wa else r we supposed to do? If u even lived here i would tell u go to ya mommas job n talk 2 de union people who r gettin blocked by their own people cause of the conflict of interest to protect the image of the political wing. The former revolutionaries who r now in positions of power, have tasted de champaine n fish eggs n have now become de enemy of the workers. A history lesson that repeats itsself over n over. FReedom fighters gettin power n become opressors.
    When regular people speak out here they get spat upon, so its no point in speaking. Time to speak with de gun it appears dat gets mo results in other places.

  7. so cutt de crap that we just empty vessels makin noise 4 no reason. – that’s not what i said – i said that unions are like vessels – they are there to carry ideas.

    The former revolutionaries who r now in positions of power, have tasted de champaine n fish eggs n have now become de enemy of the workers….FReedom fighters gettin power n become opressors.

    statements like these are cliches that outsiders spread to undermine and to try to get many people to buy into it to create a self fulfillimg prophecy – if u say that FReedom fighters gettin power n become opressors. enuff then it becomes tru in some peoples minds.

    having thoroughly researched a documentary on the BIU and had several interviews with ira phillip about the history of the labour movement in bda i know a little about its history

    the dockworkers were tricked into being split into two unions by the stevedores to lessen the power of a single union.

    the owners of belco did the same thing w/ the union there – tricked some workers into splitting the workers into two – divide and conquer

    even in the 1940s when dr. gordon had set up a blk labour group to take on the all white front street labour board (who controlled everything labour) the labour board secretly “bought off” 2 of blk reps from behind dr. gordon’s back – divide and conquer.

    the point is the struggle just does not end because a labour govt. is in power – they are not perfect and if u have to struggle to get ur issues across over and over the way that joe mills had to, the way that ottie had to – then do so – there is a history in infighting in the PLP and the BIU = hopefully it can be done on a way that strengthens rather than destroys.

  8. I would advocate and support that the workers organise themselves outside of the bureaucratic strangleholds and form wildcat type committees. Most strikes actually originate this way, seldom ever do the hierarchy initiate such actions. The bureaucrats will be forced to either support the actions or lose face; or come out against the workers.

    Vanz is correct that struggle doesn’t end just because a labour government is in power, that was the mistake that many in the movement, as with the tripartite alliance in South Africa made, assuming that the ANC would actually serve their interests and not have to keep mobilised. The grievances of the workers should organise themselves yes to challenge within the existing structures, but be prepared and willing in advance to recognise that action outside of officialdom will be neccessary.

    Putting a gun to the head only repeats the mistakes of the past but in fast forward; without mass self-concsious action all it serves is to replace one set of leaders with another. which really doesn’t do much. Unless you meant in the metaphorical sense, and again that pretty much achieves the same but with less blood.

    Only a mass movement from below that changes the entire structure to a bottom-up one can succeed. Militancy from below will win concessions, but pressure most be kept up and not capitulate to mere concessions. Not when soemthing far greater can be won.

  9. Jonathan do you believe that a worker should be free to join or not join a union?

    I was a union member in the days of my youth, I had a choice to join, but not a choice when it came to the dues. For example if I choose not to join, the union due was still deducted, though it would have gone to a charity of my choice and not the union. Do you think that is fair?

  10. Yes, of course each worker has the right to join or not join a Union. At my workplace we just unionised as part of a BPSU division, and we’re working out the process as I type.

    On the matter of dues, if you joined the union, then yes, you should pay the dues. Under the current legislation you can have your dues go to the Union (whether a member or not) or to a charity of your choice.

    I don’t have a problem with that. Under the existing framework, with other deductions from my wages, it doesn’t matter to me, as long as the money goes toawrds the social good. I want to ensure that though, not that it gets extorted or exploited much like our current pensions funds seem to.

  11. No I think you missed my point, if I choose not to become a member the money would be deducted from my salary regardless. Don’t you think thats unfair?

    Do you support other workers striking say Bus Drivers striking in sympaty for teachers?

  12. Hi J Galt,

    You seem to have posted the second question twice, I will delete them as they are unneccessary.

    To your first question, I see where you are going, and I can agree with you in principle. I am sympathetic to the system of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) that have a constitutional provision prohibiting the employer automatically collecting/handling union dues; they prefer dues to be given voluntarily. Within the existing framework this is not possible however, and kind of gets into an argument about why pay taxes that fund public education when one either doesn’t have children or sends them to private school. Unions, like Party membership, should be voluntary, and the paying of dues should be likewise. I admit though that I haven’t researched this thoroughly, so I’ll do that and get back to you asap.

    As to your second question in regards to sympathy strikes, yes, I support them, both as a tactic and a neccessity.

  13. “As to your second question in regards to sympathy strikes, yes, I support them, both as a tactic and a necessity.”

    It logically follows, then, that you would support employers having the right to fire any employee, for any reason at any time? After all, if employers have no security of labour, employees should have no security of employment. Is that your position, or do you believe that employees have a fundamental right to unilaterally withdraw their labour at any time, whereas employers have no corresponding right to dispense with labour similarly?

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