Amid an increasingly anti-union climate around the world, two Education International affiliates, from Bermuda and Mongolia, have recently won significant court victories in defense of their rights.
Legal action against the Bermuda Union of Teachers
All over the world, authorities are increasingly challenging fundamental union rights of education organisations. The cancellation of check-off systems, limitation of the right to strike, or even attempts to remove the legal certification of trade unions are all too common. However, two Education International (EI) affiliates are looking to turn the tide.
In Bermuda, the Minister of Home Affairs was seeking an injunction from the court which would have made it unlawful for EI’s affiliate, the Bermuda Union of Teachers (BUT), and four other public service unions to engage in any type of industrial action.
In January 2015, the public service unions of Bermuda showed good faith in working with the government to address budget shortfalls and solutions were mutually agreed upon. However, the Bermudian authorities preferred to ignore the agreement, prompting a protest action from the BUT and the four other unions. In response, the government accused the workers’ organisations of taking part in an illegal industrial action and initiated a legal action in an attempt to limit their right to strike.
Education International wrote to the Prime Minister of Bermuda prior to the trial to call for the respect of trade union rights of Bermudan teachers.
The Chief Justice of Bermuda eventually ruled in favour of the BUT on 15 January, by refusing to grant the permanent injunction. The judgment read that “the injunction sought (…) would potentially impair [unions'] ability to fully enjoy their freedom of association rights while enabling the Government side to breach the spirit in which collective bargaining processes should be conducted."
Court maintains check-off system for Mongolian education union
The Federation of Mongolian Education and Science Unions (FMESU) secured a significant victory in defense of its union rights on 17 December 2015 after several court trials. The Appeal court dismissed a directive that would have cancelled the automatic deduction of union dues from its members’ wages.
The directive was announced in February 2015 by the Deputy City Governor of Ulan-Bator, Ts. Enkhtsengel, in clear violation of ILO Conventions 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise and 98 on the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining. The FMESU leadership defines this measure as an attempt to weaken the union and cut its livelihood. Enkhtsengel argued that as an independent non-profit organisation the teacher union should make its own arrangements to collect membership dues. The appeal court eventually dismissed the directive as being irrelevant.
The Deputy City Governor has rejected the court ruling and has re-appealed the case. Education International continues to follow the case and support its affiliate.