Second march on Cabinet
The tense standoff over furlough days escalated again last night with union leaders urging all their members to descend on the Cabinet grounds to protest against Government.
Chris Furbert, president of the Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU), called on all his members to assemble at Union Square at 8.30am today to march on Cabinet.
While Jason Hayward, president of the Bermuda Public Services Union (BPSU), warned: “We are going to play it by ear tomorrow (Wednesday) to see if the Premier changes his mind, but if he does not, it’s on.”
The two sides remained at loggerheads yesterday with unions refusing to continue talks until the threat of further furloughs was suspended and Premier Michael Dunkley saying that rescinding the savings measure was “not possible at this point”.
Last night, as union leaders and scores of supporters camped out on the Cabinet grounds, Mr Dunkley told The Royal Gazette that Government was still willing to get back to the negotiating table.
“This is unfortunate, and we are taking this situation very seriously,” he said.
“We hope the unions will reconsider their position. Now is not the time to fight or turn back.
“We are willing to sit down and we believe that if we do we can resolve this situation.”
Mr Dunkley’s comments came just hours after the BIU, the BPSU, the Bermuda Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Prison Officers’ Association called on all their members to join the industrial action against furlough days.
Mr Furbert said: “Now we only have government workers, but we are calling on the rest of our members to be at BIU headquarters to support their brothers and sisters. We are hopeful they will be here.”
While Mr Hayward told the 5.30pm press conference that the BPSU would “stay put” adding: “The council has given me the authority for further action. However, we are not prepared to push that button yet.
“We are going to play it by ear tomorrow to see if the Premier changes his mind. But if he does not, it’s on. We are asking our members to meet us here at 9am. Public services will be interrupted tomorrow. Principals will not be at school tomorrow.”
At almost exactly the same time as union leaders addressed the press outside Cabinet, Home Affairs Minister, Michael Fahy, issued a Labour Dispute Notice.
The Government statement said the notice had been issued “as a result of irregular industrial action by Government workers” and that “once such Notice is gazetted all irregular industrial action should cease.”
A further statement released later in the evening by Derrick Binns, Head of the Civil Service, added: “All Public Officers are advised that under section 19 of the Labour Disputes Act 1992, any participation in a strike or industrial action short of a strike is illegal after the publication of the Notice.
“I should also advise that Public Officers will be deducted pay for any time that they are not in attendance at work because they participate in any illegal strike or industrial action short of a strike.”
But last night Mr Furbert responded to the move by saying the matter of furlough days would not go to arbitration. Furlough days are not a matter for arbitration,” he said. “We will not go before any arbitrator, for them to arbitrate what’s going to happen to furlough days. That’s not going to happen.”
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