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Mixed reaction to declaring public transportation ‘essential’

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Public transportation should be deemed essential because so many rely on the service, several residents agreed yesterday when polled by The Royal Gazette.

But some said the move by Government to classify buses and ferries as essential — tabled as amendments in the House of Assembly last Friday — was nothing short of union busting.

“Bermuda's a small island but we still need to get around,” said mechanic Sherwin Wilson, 69. “It's important to us as a community. It's not everybody that can buy a car or motorcycle, so we need public transportation.”

“Public transportation is a crucial service, absolutely it is. A lot of people rely on it,” said customer service representative Paul Clarke, 45. “Why is it that other departments stand in solidarity with the group that it's affecting?

“That's what we don't understand. If it's the hotel workers that are in dispute, why are the bus drivers and ferry workers and everyone else that's associated with the union, why are they taking action as well?

“It seems like a matter arises and then shortly thereafter actions are being taken in a short space of time. Normally, heavy-handed action like that is taken after weeks, months of discussion, as far as I know.”

Jessica Faiella, 28, a pupil barrister, suggested public transportation could be deemed more essential during certain months of the year “because of tourists”.

Saleswoman Gina Newson, 36, said transportation services should be kept open at all costs. “I do think it's an essential service. I don't use it much myself but anyone that doesn't have a scooter or car certainly would need to rely on it. (Public transportation) should be kept open at all costs, absolutely.

But political activist Jonathan Starling pointed out the precedent set by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which views public transportation as a non-essential service.

“(This is) union busting,” said Mr Starling. “ILO guidelines make it clear that public transport only qualifies as an essential service under certain conditions and even then it requires only that minimum service is maintained.

“This proposal goes much further than that! It's a convenience. It's not essential, and most certainly not per accepted ILO guidelines and use of the terminology.

“As noted, an argument can be made to make it a ‘required minimum service' under certain conditions. But to make it an ‘essential service' is a slow erosion of workers rights to freedom of association and right to strike.

“A slippery slope. And what makes this worse is the apparent lack of consultation with the unions.

“This is a slap in the face to any lip-service by the government to engaging in tripartite consultation with workers and the private sector.

“This is going to further set back labour relations and lead to a hardening of positions between workers and Government. Government has operated in bad faith.”

Retiree Veronica Dill, 29, shared Mr Starling's view, and suggested the move was a deliberate attempt to take away the worker's voice.

“The OBA is trying to cripple the union,” said Mrs Dill. “(It's union busting), that's the way I look at it. Take for instance when they were on strike a couple of weeks ago.

“I had no transportation and I live all the way up in Heron Bay. When I came out to find the buses were on strike, I think there's a reason for those buses to go off and strike.

“Because if they're saying make public transportation ‘essential' like the ambulance or police, I see what they want to do.

“If they make it essential, who are they hurting? They're still hurting us. We're still being hurt (because the worker's voice is not being heard).

“Yes, it inconveniences us for a minute but then you get people who stop and ask where you're going and give you a lift in their car. I do not think it should be viewed as an ambulance or fire service, no way.”

Public transportation is essential, but people have rights, and workers in Bermuda have rights” said 45-year-old Clyde (The International Barber) Simons.

“As far as I'm concerned, it's common sense, you cannot take that voice away from the workers. Let's work together, that's all. Work together and do the right thing.”

Should public transportation in Bermuda be deemed essential: Jessica Faiella, 28. (Photo by Akil Simmons)
Should public transportation in Bermuda be deemed essential: Markez Laws, 27 .(Photo by Akil Simmons)
Should public transportation in Bermuda be deemed essential: Gina Newson, 36.(Photo by Akil Simmons)
Should public transportation in Bermuda be deemed essential: Clyde Simons. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

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Published March 05, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated March 04, 2014 at 9:40 pm)

Mixed reaction to declaring public transportation ‘essential’

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