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Company appeals docks injunction

A company at the centre of a docks dispute is to appeal an injunction served by Government to stop it laying off workers.

Yesterday Government was granted an injunction preventing Stevedoring Services Ltd (SSL) and the Bermuda Industrial Union from taking any action in their docks dispute.

Patrice Minors, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, took the step when it became apparent that SSL was going to proceed with laying people off, despite Ms Minors sending the dispute to arbitration late last week.

In refering the matter to the Labour Disputes Tribunal the Minister said she hoped all parties could 'come to an agreement to avoid there being any adverse effects on the economy'.

Ms Minors had also urged both parties to 'ensure that business operated as normal as possible until the matter has been satisfactorily resolved'.

However, SSL informed Government yesterday that despite the move to arbitration it intended to proceed with the layoffs as planned, prompting the 11th hour move to obtain an injunction in Supreme Court.

“Stevedoring Services Ltd has communicated its intent to proceed with layoffs,” the Government said in a statement last night. “Thus, the Ministry has instructed the Attorney General's Chambers to file an application for an injunction against SSL in an attempt to stave off their actions and the BIU to prevent any industrial action.

“Once the matter has been heard by the courts, which began at 5pm, it is expected that both parties will withdraw any action until the arbitration process has concluded.

“This latest development is the Ministry's attempt to ensure that the proper mediation processes are followed while the matter is in arbitration.”

Yesterday's court ruling not only prevented SSL from making redundencies, but was also intended to halt the BIU's threat to institute an overtime ban, a move that could have severly delayed the movement of goods in the run up to Christmas.

“Arbitration or not, this overtime ban will go into effect next week and overtime is not mandatory,” Chris Furbert, the BIU president, said last Wednesday.

The two sides have been at loggerheads since February 2011, and negotiations finally broke down over the payment dockworkers received for 'non-productive time'.

Today Peter L Aldrich, CEO and General Manager, Stevedoring Services Ltd, said: "Despite not actually being served with any court papers in regards to a Government injunction preventing any further action from either party in the dock dispute, Stevedoring Services is, in good faith, complying with what it understands the order to be.

“In the meantime, we are preparing an appeal to have the injunction overturned. All of our actions have been legal and in compliance with the collective bargaining agreement, so we are confident of our position.

“We remain committed to efforts to find a mutually agreeable resolution to this issue. The simple economics of the situation dictate that we must find a solution to reduce the expense attributed to the 50 per cent non-productive employment costs if the business is to survive.”

SSL's final proposal of a guaranteed minimum work week of 22.5 hours or 15 hours depending on the shipping schedule, and a standby pay regime for the balance of the 37.5 hours, which was around 50 percent of the standard pay rate for standby time, being rejected outright bu the BIU.

Containers are unloaded from the container ship The Oleander at Hamilton docks as negotiations between dockworkers and Stevedoring Services go to arbitration. Government intervened late yesterday to prevent either side taking any action in their dispute until the matter has gone to arbitration.

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Published December 13, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated December 13, 2012 at 1:51 am)

Company appeals docks injunction

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