Legislation to make impromptu stoppages illegal was delayed
Government has repeatedly condemned impromptu work stoppages by transport workers in recent months, claiming they can damage Bermuda’s reputation as a tourism destination.
But although it drafted legislation to make wildcat industrial action by bus and ferry crews illegal earlier this year, Government delayed implementing the new law “in the best interest of good industrial relations”.
Government tabled the Labour Relations Amendment Act 2014 in February. The legislation reclassified public transport services — including buses and ferries — as “essential”, making any wildcat action illegal. Instead, disgruntled transport staff have to give 21 days’ notice before taking industrial action.
At the time, Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy said “Over the course of last year and this year we have seen far too many instances where members of the public and our visitors have been majorly inconvenienced due to transportation services being pulled because of irregular industrial action.
“In each case, these irregular industrial actions occurred with little or no notice to the public.”
Mr Fahy added that transport shutdowns hit the Island’s economic health, with lost Government revenue and disruption to the private sector because employees were unable to travel to and from work.
“Such irregular industrial actions also have a seriously negative effect on our reputation as a premier tourist destination,” he said.
“Hoteliers and cruise lines have raised such matters with this Government. Irregular industrial action in this area has knock-on effects that cause irreparable harm to Bermuda’s economy.”
However, in March, Sen Fahy confirmed that a debate on the controversial amendment — which had provoked a march on Parliament by the BIU — had been deferred.
“Discussions between our union partners continue and as I said a few weeks ago, the Government remains committed to finding a mutually agreed way forward in how we address our labour matters,” Sen Fahy said.
The Act is still to be debated in the House of Assembly and as a result, yesterday’s impromptu action was not illegal.
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