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Bermuda Archives’ staff vote to strike

Staff from the Bermuda Archives have voted to strike if their controversial director, Karla Hayward, is not removed from her post.

They voted by secret ballot on Tuesday to give 21 days’ notice of strike action, meaning they are set to down tools on October 4.

Ms Hayward has been at the centre of controversy for several years, with staff and researchers alike criticising her management of the archives.

She was at the centre of an investigation launched in 2008 by Ombudsman Arlene Brock after complaints from archives users that records were being arbitrarily withheld.

Ms Brock reported in her report on the issue the following year: “A number of formal staff and user complaints in 2007 highlighted concerns about the public service generally, and access specifically.”

She quoted users who claimed Ms Hayward only gave access to information to those she liked and controlled the official repository of government records “like a kingdom”. Ms Hayward strongly denied any wrongdoing. She said in a formal response to the report that it contained “personal and professional character assassinations”, adding: “I honestly do try to do my best.”

Ms Brock recommended that the director be moved to a less front-line role, such as focusing on the modern records section at the Archives, which could mean less contact with staff and users.

It was announced in October 2010 that Ms Hayward had been seconded to the Cabinet Office to help bring in Bermuda’s Public Access to Information legislation.

However,

The Royal Gazette understands she returned to the archives around two months later.

A number of her staff have resigned in recent years. Assistant director Christine Walker left her $100,0000-a-year job in January 2009, less than 12 months into a three-year contract.

Her replacement in the post, Andrew Griffin, handed in his own notice recently, and finished work at the department on August 12. He was just 22 months into a three-year contract.

Several members of archives staff submitted complaints about Ms Hayward to the Bermuda Public Services Union (BPSU) in July. They cited concerns including an alleged lack of respect for her staff, interference with their work, an argumentative style and alleged bullying and intimidation.

They went to the Cabinet Office with the backing of the union last month, demanding action over their concerns and calling for the immediate suspension of Ms Hayward. Acting Cabinet Secretary Judith Hall-Bean pledged to look into their complaints.

However, they held the strike ballot on Tuesday due to their continuing dissatisfaction.

The Royal Gazette understands the dispute is now in the process of mediation, but has yet to be referred to arbitration. Invited to comment on the situation, Ms Hayward said: “I have only just been advised myself and really don’t know too much about the context of the action, so it’s business as usual here, and as far as I know I’m gainfully employed.”

She said she could not comment further as yet.

Cabinet Secretary Donald Scott said: “The Cabinet Office does not comment on internal personnel matters that are subject to the Public Service Commission Regulations 2001.”

BPSU general secretary Ed Ball Jr said: “I cannot comment as this is in the hands of the Labour Department.”

Bermuda Archives staff have threatened to strike if Archives Director Karla Hayward is not removed from her post.

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Published September 16, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated September 16, 2011 at 9:07 am)

Bermuda Archives’ staff vote to strike

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