Docks dispute could go to arbitration
A lingering docks dispute looks set to go to arbitration if Stevedoring Services and the Bermuda Industrial Union are not able to resolve outstanding issues by Thursday.
The standoff is imminent, based on comments made by BIU president Chris Furbert at a press conference yesterday.
The two sides have reached a stalemate on working hours and pay.
Stevedoring Services has said temporary layoffs based on unproductive time on the docks will begin on December 14.
And they have offered to pay port workers 50 percent of their salary and allow them to go home, when there is no work to do.
Mr Furbert said port workers gave up container royalties 40 years ago in return for a guaranteed work week.
The union head said he has been instructed to implement an overtime ban should the company decide to go ahead with layoffs.
He noted that theres only a handful of workers on the docks, and questioned just how many employers would be affected with only a small contingent of port workers on the job.
The union plans to meet with the employers to discuss the issues next week.
Said Mr Furbert: If the guaranteed work week is in trouble right now then container royalties need to be put back on the table.
Those royalties subsidised the port workers wages, whether its in the arbitration process or not. We need to have that conversation with the employer about the loss of income for the workers at the docks.
He said it wasnt up to him to decide if the 50 percent pay offer to port workers was reasonable.
I represent my members who are saying to the management team that they dont think thats a fair deal based on their loss of income.
When the number seven and number eight sheds closed down it took work away from them, and 100 percent of the containers go across the road to be stripped.
Its for the workers to make their final decision on and they believe that because their work is gone that its worth a bit more to them than the 50 percent offer the employer has put on the table, he said.
I can tell you if the employer is instituting layoffs I am instructed by the workers to institute an overtime ban. I am officially duty bound to put the overtime ban in place.
This issue has been very delicate for a while now. The mere fact that the matter is going to be referred to the arbitration process is going to leave a bit of a dark cloud hanging over us.
The workers are probably going to stand firm on their position; everybody knows today by now what it means for the docks.
Peter Aldrich, CEO and general manager at Stevedoring Services, said the layoffs will be implemented on days when there is no work required.
The timing is regrettable as we approach the holiday season, however, taking this course of action was unavoidable in order for us to preserve our long-established business, he said.
As a result of the downturn Islandwide, businesses, and therefore cargo volumes, have declined so dramatically in recent years that Stevedoring Services existing business model cannot be sustained through 2013 and beyond.
The company has made every effort to reduce operational costs on all fronts, but the challenging economy dictates that further cost-cutting is essential to the companys survival.
This action follows renewed talks with the BIU over the last four months to resolve outstanding salary issues.
We have proposed a standby payment for our employees for times when they are not routinely required instead of paying them in full for days when they are not required for work.
Mr Aldrich concluded: We believe that the talks were genuinely conducted with an honest attempt by both parties towards reaching an agreement. Unfortunately no such agreement was reached.
He thanked Economy Minister Patrice Minors for notification that this matter will now be taken to arbitration in a further attempt to bring this issue to a mutually-agreeable settlement.
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