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Employers rolling back union gains, BIU claim

Bermuda Industrial Union President Chris Furbert has accused government and private sector employers of merging together to roll back the rights of unionised workers.

And at a press conference held at union headquarters yesterday he charged that the current trend is a “recipe for disaster”.

Mr Furbert also disclosed the KFC dispute is back on the front burner after talks broke down this week between the BIU and KFC management.

The dispute came to a head last December when KFC cancelled the collective bargaining agreement with the union. The two sides agreed to work out their differences but talks broke down on Tuesday.

The union leader said the labour relations officer is now considering sending the dispute to a third party.

But on the issue of the agreement Mr Furbert maintained: “You can’t give notice to modify an agreement and then cancel the agreement outright. KFC is sticking to the advice of their attorneys but the employees are fed up.

“BIU critics would say we are in a recession, but we have worked with our social partners. If they are taking that as a sign of weakness that would be a big mistake.”

On top of that dispute he said a part-time KFC employee was fired recently after ten years of service without warning, following a conflict over vacation time. Mr Furbert stated that the worker in question has a clean record and the union flatly disagrees with the dismissal.

“Our workers still have families to feed recession or not and we will fight for the rights of our workers.”

Citing a number of outstanding disputes ranging from BTC, Cablevision, King Edward VII Memorial, hotel and postal workers, Mr Furbert said: “Employers have gotten together to systematically roll back the gains of the union.

“All the red flags should go up, we have big challenges with BTC where we’ve lost 50 percent of our members since 2002, when there were more than 200 unionised workers; now its down to 96.”

As for the 30 redundancies planned by BTC, as first reported by

The Royal Gazette, Mr Furbert accused BTC of using voluntary separation as an incentive to get staff to agree to take a redundancy package.

“BTC management asked 16 workers, they only got eight or nine to agree.”

Other lingering disputes cited include government parks workers, custodians, bus operators and marine and ports.

In the private sector he said there are a number of outstanding disputes with the union’s division for supermarkets and printers.

So as not to pre-empt the union’s membership, Mr Furbert said he will be taking these matters to the union’s executive board on Monday.

And while there was no mention of industrial action, the union President made it clear that there are rumblings in the air.

BIU president Chris Furbert speaks at a press conference (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published March 30, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 30, 2012 at 9:07 am)

Employers rolling back union gains, BIU claim

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