Unions broaden attack
The People’s Campaign bemoaned falling numbers at its rally in support of the Reverend Nicholas Tweed yesterday and widened its attacks on the Bermuda Government.
White-collar union leader Jason Hayward claimed people were afraid to attend the meeting at St Paul AME Centennial Hall, where the attendance was down to about 250 from several hundred on Monday.
Mr Hayward, the president of the Bermuda Public Services Union, questioned whether Michael Dunkley, the Premier, wants to see a civil war.
On Monday morning, the campaign had revolved around anger at the Bermuda Government’s rejection of a work permit for Mr Tweed to continue as pastor at St Paul AME Church.
Yesterday, the content of speeches was extended to include unemployment, the pepper-spraying of protesters last month, lack of investment in education, the state of the roads, the resignation of former One Bermuda Alliance MP Shawn Crockwell and the Jetgate controversy; late on Monday, Bermuda Industrial Union leader Chris Furbert had said the airport redevelopment project formed part of his attempted bargain with Mr Dunkley.
The meeting began at 9am and featured fiery presentations from Mr Furbert, Mr Hayward and Mr Tweed — and calls for boycotts of organisations, including The Royal Gazette — before the media were asked to leave shortly before noon so that members could “strategise” and “talk shop”.
It continued behind closed doors until late afternoon, when organisers announced another meeting for all BIU members will take place today at 9am.
Many members are said to have stayed away thus far, on the grounds that London-born Mr Tweed’s work permit is not a union matter, meaning they would not get paid for withdrawal of labour, that he contributed to his own downfall by refusing to co-operate with the Department of Immigration over his application, and the notion that politics should not be mixed with the Church.
Mr Tweed has responded angrily when his paternal links to Bermudian pastor Kingsley Tweed have been brought into question, but has refused to comment when asked if he was legally adopted by the legendary former general secretary of the BIU. Yesterday, acting home affairs minister Cole Simons clarified that the work permit bid had failed because of inconsistencies surrounding his name and marital status.
Reacting to the attendance yesterday, Mr Hayward said: “There’s an awful lot of people who support us who are not brave enough to be in this room today.”
He argued that Mr Dunkley had called on a segment of the population to rise up. “I wonder if the Premier wants to see a civil war,” he said.
Mr Hayward said a confrontation would “not end well” for that segment, before adding: “I don’t know if the Premier wants to retract his words, but he needs to be more responsible.”
Mr Furbert noted numbers on Monday had been “a bit down” and said: “People are intentionally doing things against us to divide us. I guess you can see from this morning that they are down even further.”
Mr Tweed, a prominent member of the People’s Campaign, complained that the media would report the movement was losing support. “When people start calling for a boycott of the union, the issue is not boycotting the union gas; the issue is to silence and suppress a voice that defends and champions the cause of our people,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Furbert’s threat to derail the America’s Cup, made late on Monday, brought a fierce response from the Government as well as from the social-media community.
Grant Gibbons, the economic development minister, warned the move could harm the island’s reputation and economic recovery, and put Bermudian jobs at risk.
“The America’s Cup should not be held hostage by a labour union president acting irresponsibly over an immigration issue,” Dr Gibbons told a press conference.
“The world is watching closely and any attempts to disturb this highly visible, international event would set our island back immeasurably and put all of our futures at risk.
“It is shocking that the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union would attempt to undermine Bermuda’s future economic success and our credibility as a stable jurisdiction by threatening to disrupt the America’s Cup over a work permit issue that is unrelated to labour.”
A petition created on Facebook titled “I do not support the actions of BIU president Chris Furbert on Rev Tweed’s work permit” gathered more than 2,000 supporters yesterday.
Labour stoppages continued, including at Hamilton docks, where 41 out of the 52 staff did not show up and no one was able to pick up cargo.
Buses remained out of action, causing inconvenience for TN Tatem Middle School, which had 100 students unable to reach their temporary home at Clearwater Middle School in St David’s on the first day of term.
Only a handful of drivers turned up at a meeting called by the Government during the afternoon, and Senator Michael Fahy warned buses are likely to be out again this morning, with a drivers’ meeting taking place at 8am.
Mr Fahy, the transport minister, has said bus operators, or anyone else who did not attend work, will not be paid until they return, and their no-show will be recorded as an unauthorised absence.
In March last year, Chief Justice Ian Kawaley ruled it was strongly arguable that the withdrawal of labour in circumstances where it has no connection to a labour dispute was a breach of Section 34 of the Labour Relations Act.
Walton Brown, the Shadow Minister of Home Affairs, also commented yesterday, claiming the issue highlights the One Bermuda Alliance’s lack of connection to the mood of the country.
Additional reporting by Simon Jones
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