Furbert defends record on airport - again
The head of the island’s blue-collar union has denied the assertion by a former finance minister that union opposition to the public-private partnership to build a new airport was political.
Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert hit out yesterday after Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier in the previous One Bermuda Alliance government, said he had laughed out loud after learning the union leader insisted he had opposed the airport redevelopment on cost grounds only.
Mr Furbert said Mr Richards’s laughter “should be an insult, not just to me as the president of the BIU, but it should be an insult to the country”.
He added he had agreed that a new airport was needed, but should not have been built at such a cost to taxpayers. Mr Furbert said: “It was always about cost. The country is going to lose revenue for the next 30-plus years.”
He claimed the country gave up more than $700 million in revenue over the next 30 years because of the deal with the Canadian Commercial Corporation and Aecon to build and operate the replacement for the ageing airport buildings.
Mr Furbert said the Union’s position was not political.
He said the union would have had the same problem if a Progressive Labour Party government had made the deal.
Mr Furbert denied Mr Richards’s claim that workers were urged by the BIU to refuse a proposal where they would get a salary increase. He explained the union had been concerned about payments to employees who had been working with the Government for years.
He said the BIU “told the workers to ensure they signed a contract before accepting the proposal” to ensure their rights were protected in the transfer from the Government to Skyport, the new operator of the airport.
He added: “We were trying to give our members the proper advice to make sure they have a legal document, not a memorandum of understanding, a signed contract first before they accepted any conditions with Skyport.”
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