Burt brokers talks to end Belco dispute
Belco workers ended their industrial action after David Burt called a meeting with union officials and the Ascendant Group.
The Premier announced Bermuda’s electricity supply would continue uninterrupted after both sides agreed “a way forward” on Saturday night.
However, it remained unclear whether Ascendant, the parent company of Belco, would accept the Electricity Supply Trade Union’s demands to remove chief executive Sean Durfy and chief financial officer Robert Schaefer, and reinstate four non-unionised Bermudian managers who lost their jobs last month.
Mr Burt said: “The remaining issues will be for the board to address in due course.”
ESTU president Donald Lottimore declined to comment yesterday and the Ascendant Group refused to say whether it had agreed to the union’s demands, or whether the demands had been dropped.
The union imposed a work-to-rule at the company more than two weeks ago amid anger over the departure of the Bermudians and the management style of Mr Durfy.
Tensions escalated on Friday when Belco staff went on strike, which the ESTU and Ascendant both said could lead to power cuts.
But staff were ordered back to work on Friday night after Ascendant obtained a legal order against the action from the Supreme Court.
The Premier, deputy premier Walter Roban and home affairs minister Walton Brown met Ascendant board members and union leaders at the Cabinet Office on Saturday.
Mr Burt said yesterday: “Our meeting was productive and a way forward has been agreed. Both sides came prepared to talk and I wish to thank them for their willingness to work towards some form of resolution. Most importantly, I am satisfied that the supply of electricity for Bermuda will continue uninterrupted.”
He said the group spent several hours “trying to repair a damaged working relationship”.
He continued: “Unions do not take strike action lightly and in this case it was important to engage in a critical examination of the issues they outlined.
“Both sides accept that dialogue must continue and that communication must be open and constructive.
“The ‘work-to-rule’ has ended and the ESTU executive made it clear that their aim is to provide electricity to the island safely and reliably. In the meantime, the remaining issues will be for the board to address in due course.
“The Government responded to a need to bring the parties together for the good of the country. Disputes like this can be concerning but we are a mature democracy that has and will continue to manage issues responsibly, mindful of the wider impact on the community.
“Discussions will continue over the next few days and I am confident that electricity supply will be delivered uninterrupted as both sides are now clearer on what needs to be done to continue the progress achieved last night.”
The Ascendant Group said in a statement that those at Saturday’s meeting had “agreed a way forward which brings to an end the industrial action by Belco staff of the last two weeks”.
The statement said: “For Belco customers this means that all regular services will resume effective immediately. Belco’s head office on Serpentine Road will be open during regular office hours on Monday to accept all customer inquiries and payments.
“We appreciate the input of all parties who have endeavoured to bring resolution to this situation and would especially like to thank our customers for their patience and understanding during this challenging time.”
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