No holiday buses as drivers walk out
Buses were off the roads on National Heroes Day after drivers took part in industrial action over working conditions.
Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert said members continued a work-to-rule over numerous issues including bathroom breaks, air conditioning and mechanical problems.
Taxis were in high demand yesterday as thousands of residents and tourists attended public holiday festival events in Hamilton and St David’s.
The industrial action came despite Walton Brown, the Minister of Home Affairs, stating any strike or irregular industrial action by drivers would be unlawful.
Mr Brown said he had referred the matter to the Labour Disputes Tribunal.
The bus service is expected to resume today, but an urgent meeting is scheduled to take place either today or tomorrow with Roger Todd, the Director of the Department of Public Transportation. The work-to-rule will remain in place until after that meeting.
Mr Furbert said workers would demand a timeframe for issues to be addressed.
He told The Royal Gazette: “There are numerous outstanding issues, some of which have been going on for years, that the management team know about.
“I understand the Government is trying to order new buses but there are many other issues including working conditions, bathroom breaks, air-conditioning issues, mechanical issues and problems continue at the Dockyard and St George’s depots.
“We have an aged fleet — they have done their time. If the Government could buy ten new buses every other year then things would get better.
“We have been patient with management but some of these issues go back four or five years.
“What our members want is a timeframe for when these issues will be addressed. They want deadlines and for those deadlines to be met. We need to get these issues sorted out so that they can do what they were hired to do.”
A DPT spokesman said that management was advised by the BIU of a work-to-rule starting at 10am on Friday.
He said: “The BIU membership has interpreted this to include holiday work, regardless of whether or not it forms part of the employees’ weekly work schedule.
“Management does not agree with this interpretation and distinguishes between regular shift work taking place on a holiday and overtime for those working more than their normal 37.5 hours per week.
“As with many other service providers, the bus service is a 365-day per year operation, which necessitates working holidays, weekends and shift work.
“DPT apologises for the inconvenience to the travelling public and is committed to restoring full service as soon as possible.”
Taxi driver Shari-Lynn Pringle said she was extremely busy coping with demand.
She said: “When I stop, I pick up right afterwards. We have cruise ships in and tourists trying to move around, we have the Newport to Bermuda Race, then of course it’s Bermuda National Heroes Day. Planes are coming in heavy.
“It is just busy — it’s really busy. Anybody who wants to make money today can make it, but it is unfortunate that we have to make it like this.
“Fares are at the highest rate because it is a holiday rate and some people are hard-pressed to afford a taxi on a regular-rate day.”
Ms Pringle said she saw people waiting at bus stops and gave a free ride to one person who had no idea the buses were out of operation.
She said: “I understand the plight of the drivers but I don’t think it is a public issue — if it is such a big issue I would like to know where they are gathered and demonstrating.
“I can understand them not working today if they are trying to demonstrate something, but if they are at home taking a day off then that’s not right.”
Mr Brown published a Notice of Declaration of Labour Dispute in the Official Gazette on Saturday, which stated: “I declare that a labour dispute exists between the Department of Public Transportation and the Bermuda Industrial Union.
“In accordance with section 19 of the Labour Disputes Act 1992, after the publication of this Notice, any lockout strike or irregular industrial action short of a strike is unlawful and any person who takes part in, incites or in any way encourages, persuades or influences any person to take part in, or otherwise acts in furtherance of, a lockout, strike or irregular industrial action short of a strike that is unlawful under this section is guilty of an offence.”
The DPT attacked the media on Saturday for reporting the public holiday service was under threat due to industrial action. However, it later backtracked admitting there would be “a risk” the bus service would not run.
Three cruise ships were in Bermuda yesterday — Norwegian Dawn and Grandeur of the Seas in Dockyard, and Veendam in the Hamilton, with a potential total of 6,000-plus passengers on board.
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