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By: Batumba Tak

General Secretary.

Agency Shop

In the words of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

The working condition and job security at Lutron Liamuiga Limited, SKELEC and many other workplaces need to improve tremendously, because if it does not the St. Kitts/Nevis Trades & Labour Union just like in the 1800s, 1900s, and the 1980s will have no alternative but to follow the lead taken by one of its affiliates and think seriously about abandoning a policy of “restraint” and be prepared to advise its members to stand ready to launch industrial action whenever the need arise.

However, the St. Kitts/Nevis Trades & Labour Union is also of the opinion that there is an urgent need to change the public discourse on labour rights by elevating them beyond being just statutory rights by reinforcing that Labour rights are indeed human rights.

Moreover, we must continue to build on our own knowledge, experience and evidence concerning the broader role that Union’s play in strengthening democracy and the promotion of greater economic equality, including the social and economic well-being of all citizens.

Just like in the past, Unions have been, and continue to be, an important force for democracy, not just in the workplace, but also in the communities.

The St. Kitts/Nevis Trades & Labour Union has a long and rich history of promoting democracy not only at the workplace but in the entire Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis, and will continue to play its role of promoting democracy not just in the workplace in our beautiful Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis but in the world at large.

However, it is no coincidence that in countries where there are free and active Trade Union Movements, there are more democratic, transparency and representative forms of government. Just like in our beautiful Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis all of the above is alive.

In addition, the St. Kitts/Nevis Trades & labour Union knows only too well that democracies benefit from the presence of Unions, and so do economies as well.

However, the St. Kitts/Nevis Trades & Labour Union knows that beyond the economic benefits provided to workers and their families, Unions have historically been an important force in humanizing and democratizing the economies of nations.

Moreover, the St. Kitts/Nevis Trades & Labour Union is also of the opinion that the erosion of labour rights diminishes our standing and economic well-being of all citizens.

Nevertheless, the question that has been asked by a very large cross section of the labour force is What is an agency shop?

However, let us first look at two examples from those countries where agency shop exist.

The first example that we will look at comes from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Industrial Relations Act, Chapter 88: 01 – Act 23 of 1972 – Part VI, Miscellaneous and General Agency Shop Orders.

Definitions relating to agency shop orders of the above named Act where it clearly states at 72, In this part –

“Agency shop order” means an order made by the Board and binding on an employer, the recognized majority Union and the workers in the bargaining unit, whereby it is directed in respect of all workers from time to time comprised in the bargaining unit for which the Union is certified, that the terms and conditions of employment of those workers shall include a condition that every such worker must pay contribution in accordance with this part.

The second example comes from South Africa where it is accepted that the aim of an agency shop is to ensure that non-Union employees, who nevertheless benefits from the Union’s bargaining efforts, make a contribution towards those efforts.

It also states in the South Africa Constitutions, that the employees to join Trade Unions of their choice is an integral part of the general right to freedom of association. These rights are guaranteed in the South African Constitution and Labour Relations Act of 1995 (as amended). Moreover, the majority of the Unions are vigorously applying these agreements (especially agency shop).

However, let us bear in mind that agency shop agreements, are different from the closed shop agreements, in the sense that they do not directly compel workers to join a particular Trade Union.

Moreover, the Confederation of South African Workers’ Unions (CONSAWU) believes it is unfair for workers who do not belong to Trade Unions to continue to enjoy the benefits derived from the work of Trade Union and their members.

I have been a Union representative for well over Twenty-Four Years (24+) and every workplace where the Union represent the majority of workers the question that has continued to be asked by the majority of the workers is, Why are those workers who refuse to join the Union continues to benefit from the Unions’ effort to improve the workplace are not demanded to pay a bargaining fee for the benefits that they enjoy?

The St. Kitts/Nevis Trades & Labour Union knows for a fact that many countries where Unions’ are recognized as the bargaining agent on behalf of the majority of workers at that particular workplace all of the workers whether by the Collective Agreement or by that particular country Labour Laws has to contribute an agency fee to the bargaining unit or to a charitable organization agreed to by the Union and enforce by that country Labour Commissioner.

Let us now turn our attention to the question that has been asked, What is an agency shop?

An agency shop is a form of Union security agreement where the employer may hire Union or non-Union worker, and employees need not join the Union in order to remain employed. However, the non-Union workers must pay a fee to cover Collective Bargaining costs.

Furthermore, the fee paid by non-Union members under the agency shop is known as the “agency fee.”

Nevertheless, in some countries where the agency shop is illegal, as is common in Labour Laws governing Unions, a “fair share provision” could be agreed to by the Union and the employer.

That provision requires non-Union employees to pay a “fair share fee” to help cover the cost of the Union’s Collective Bargaining activities.

However, the “fair share” is similar to the agency shop, but usually more restrictive as to what may be charged to the non-Union members.

As time is of the utmost importance I will have to stop here for today, but in a follow up article we will be looking at the close shop agreements, and also compare it to the agency shop.

As I take my leave today I leave you with a quote from UAW Local 469 “Target”, USA, and an American Negro Spiritual song.

Recipe For A Strong Union

“Take one mediun-sized workplace, carefully separating company from Union and throwing company part away. To the Union add several members, thoroughly mixed for equality. Sift democracy, participation and education and blend with Union member’s mixture. Season with pride-in-Unionism and let rise on-the-job until thoroughly strong.

When done you will find this Union capable of anything!
- UAW Local 469 “ Target.”

Scandalized My Name
American Negro Spiritual Song.

Well, I met my sister de other day
Give her my right han’
Just as soon as ever my back was turned
She took an’ scandaliz’d my name
Do you call dat a sister?
No, no! Scandaliz’d my name.

Well, I met my brother de other day
Give him my right han’
Just as soon as ever my back was turned
He took an’ scandaliz’d my name
Do you call dat a brother?
No, no! Scandaliz’d my name.

Well, I met my Preacher de other day
Give him my right han’
Just as soon as ever my back was turned
He took an’ scandaliz’d my name
Do you call dat a Preacher?
No, no! Scandaliz’d my name.
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