Furbert defends union position on bailouts
The president of the Bermuda Industrial Union drew a line yesterday on the union’s ability to bail out members whose paycheques had suffered from the coronavirus pandemic.
Chris Furbert said that hotel workers had taken a hit after hotels closed for the duration of the crisis.
He added the union could offer limited benefit packages that ranged from $50 to $120 a week, depending on how long a worker had been a BIU member.
He encouraged hotel staff to sign up for the Government’s unemployment benefits of up to $500 a week, which he said was “a reasonable number”.
But he said the union’s ability to support struggling members was limited.
Hotel staff make up the majority of union workers that get benefits from the BIU, which over the past ten years has averaged collective payouts of $40,000 to $50,000 a year.
Mr Furbert said: “There is no way the BIU would be able to pay benefits to 3,000 members.”
Benefits could be paid out over a six-week period, with the possibility of “a discretionary further two weeks”.
However, Mr Furbert said mass handouts to members was impossible.
He added: “The benefits package and plan for union members was never designed for that.”
Mr Furbert admitted that expatriate workers in the hospitality industry might have to go home if the coronavirus crisis plunged the sector into a major recession.
He said that David Burt, the Premier, was “doing what he can to bring Bermudians back home” if they were stranded abroad by the travel shut down.
Mr Furbert added: “I would like to think those countries they are from, are doing the exact same thing. Bermuda and their governments should work together to get that done.”
Mr Furbert said that the BIU headquarters in Hamilton would start a three-day week from next week with a “skeleton staff”.
The union head also confirmed yesterday that trash collection was halted this month because an employee had not self-quarantined after travel overseas.
Mr Furbert said that the waste management worker returned from New York on March 15 and came to work for three days before “management must have said something”.
Mandatory self-quarantine was not then in effect, but Mr Furbert said other waste collection staff raised concerns about potential Covid-19 risks and walked off the job.
He said the employee’s 14-day, self-monitoring period had ended and that staff returned to work yesterday morning.
He also asked the Government to “use all its powers” to ensure that sick days were not being abused by employers whose staff were being told to stay at home.
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