Cannonier calls for unity
Premier Craig Cannonier called for unity in the aftermath of a march on Parliament by union members protesting Government's planned change to transport laws.
“This is not about, as we heard earlier today, going back to the 1970s and 1980s, when we had strikes — this is not about going back to slavery, as we heard chanted earlier today,” Mr Cannonier said. “This is simply about how we move forward.”
Hoarse-voiced after addressing the crowd outside the House of Assembly, Mr Cannonier said the move to add public transportation to the schedule of essential services — which require 21 days' notice of industrial action — was about “taking the country to a better place”.
“If we continue to look in the rear view mirror as we drive this vehicle — the Budget and how we move this country forward — we will only see what's behind us, and not the potential that lies in front of us,” the Premier added. He said the labour law changes tabled before MPs last Friday “allows us to approach our differences in a very responsible way”.
He said the 21-day notice didn't infringe upon rights, but allowed the public access to transportation.
“We do not want any of our people at this time in our history to be disadvantaged because there may be differences between the Government and the Collective Bargaining Agreement of the BIU or any other union.”
The Premier appeared alongside Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy, who expressed regret at what Bermuda Industrial Union head Chris Furbert called a breakdown in relations between the union and Government.
“I didn't see them as poor up until this point,” Senator Fahy, calling himself “optimistic on these things”.
“It's disappointing that Mr Furbert doesn't wish to attend monthly meetings going forward, but I do know he is now continuing actively to engage in the committee that has been struck to reform labour law.
“And I'm expecting and hoping to see Mr Furbert at the next Tripartite Meeting, which is on Friday, when we're hearing from Belco.”
Sen Fahy maintained that he'd had discussions with Mr Furbert and others on making transport an essential service — although he said the union had never agreed to it.
“I have raised the issue of making public transport and services related to cruise ships an essential service in the middle of last year. I've raised it on a number of occasions.
“I can say the union was not in favour of it. But it was raised again with the Labour Advisory Council, and discussions were held at that forum in a consultative way.
“Again, the unions said that they would prefer not to do it by way of an essential service, but would be prepared to discuss an essential industry. That is not what the Government is looking to do.”
An essential industry, aside from being exempt from the 21-day rule, is subject to “odd legislation”, Sen Fahy said.
In Bermuda, the label currently applies to hotels.
“That one has a very specific policy and procedure to follow, by way of an essential industries dispute tribunal that I appoint in consultation with the parties in advance.”
The most recent tribunal was used for last month's dispute between the union and Fairmont Hotels, Sen Fahy added.
The Minister also said there was nothing new in the Government heading off wildcat strikes — pointing to remarks made in May, 2009 by former Premier Ewart Brown.
In that instance, Dr Brown spoke in the aftermath of a settlement with the BIU over the $6.8 million bond for the Berkeley school project — calling for “talk, like grown-ups, before downing tools”, and saying that taxpayers “want to know that they can rely on the members of the BIU to deliver the services they have been hired to carry out”.