Migrant workers have shared “horror stories” claiming abuse, xenophobia, unfair discrepancies in working contracts and having their travel documents seized, according to a union leader.
Jason Hayward, the president of the Bermuda Public Services Union has launched a guest worker task force to address the issues migrant workers face in their employment.
Mr Hayward met with members from 14 groups this week, including unions, the Bermuda Hospitals Board, the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce and cultural organisations representing ethnic groups.
Mr Hayward told The Royal Gazette: “The way in which migrant workers are being treated needs to be addressed immediately. The concerns are severe — I have been hearing some horror stories.
“It is important that we recognise that guest workers play a vital role in our society as Bermuda will always have to rely on guest workers to fill some areas of our workforce.
“Guest workers undoubtedly contribute positively to our economy.”
He added: “We cannot and will not turn a blind eye to the plight of this population in Bermuda, as all workers should be afforded decent work.”
Mr Hayward said the task force heard stories including “bullying and harassment, precarious work, instances where employers have seized travel documents when guest workers arrived in Bermuda, variation to guest worker employment contracts after arrival and numerous other abuses by employers which are against the Employment Act”.
He said: “More alarming stories were shared on how some stakeholders have assisted domestic workers in escaping their places of employment as a result of the abuses and undignified treatment they receive from their employers.”
The union leader said that the Department of Labour had received similar complaints, although the Department did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.
Mr Hayward said that the task force agreed to focus on numerous aims including to promote cultural diversity, inform guest workers of their rights, campaign against xenophobia and combat discrimination, raise concerns to the government’s Labour Advisory Committee, and ensure that Bermuda’s legislation fully protects all workers.
Mr Hayward said that he would encourage local companies to survey their employees in order to identify instances of bullying and abuse within the workplace.
He said: “We are trying to get companies to put out employee opinion surveys so they can get a better grasp of the culture that exists within their work environments.
“We are actively engaged in the migrant worker population, how to move forward and assist them and we intend to meet on a monthly basis.”