What the Trade Union Act Really Does

First Published: 2000-04-10

The objectives of the proposed 2000 Trade Union and Labour Relations Act are very clearly stated in the Second Schedule Part III. They are-

  1. Promote strong and effective trade unions because that is in the best interest of the unionized employees
  2. Reduce the number of unions seeking to represent a bargaining unit because that weakens unions
  3. Promote industry wide union-management negotiations

In short, this Bill is designed to promote the special interests of selected trade unions, unionized workers, labour lawyers and perhaps the politicians proposing it. The Bill does not claim to promote the interests of those workers who do not want to be in a specific union, non-unionized workers in general, business or entrepreneurs… nor does it claim to promote the economic welfare.

Furthermore, the sum total of all evidence and experience in the world clearly suggests that such legislation, in fact, does not do so.

  • In continental Western Europe, government and trade unions manage labour markets more centrally. These countries have substantially higher unemployment rates than more market-directed less rigid labour markets such as the United States, Japan and both New Zealand and Great Britain after their labour reform programs.

  • The case of New Zealand is particularly insightful. Prior to 1984 it was one of most "socialist" countries outside of Eastern Europe. With its labour reforms of 1991 the unionized share of the work force dropped to 23.4% while the size of the labour force rose 56%… from 892,800 in 1989 to 1.6 million in 1994. The economy that grew at an average annual rate of 0.5% per year for 20 years prior to 1984 increased at 5-6% per annum after the 1991 reforms.

If the Bahamas is to experience sustained growth it must do what small countries especially must do. It must mobilize its skills to respond flexibly to a dynamic and changing world. This Bill… with the proposed Minimum Standards and the Industrial Tribunal acts… clamps down on this country the costly and destructive practices that kill enterprise… both foreign and domestic.

The country should not embrace the militant trade unionism that has characterized the Government corporations.

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