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BTUC: workers want their day in court

Awaiting ruling: the Bermuda Trade Union Congress

Unionised workers are seeking clearance to attend next week’s Supreme Court hearings on an injunction against them by the Bermuda Government.

The legal action, set for Tuesday through Thursday, stems from marches prompted by a letter on January 23 from Bob Richards, the Minister of Finance, ordering a decision on the renewal of furlough days for government workers.

According to a statement issued by the Bermuda Trade Union Congress (BTUC), the Government threatened further legal action if public service employees turned out to attend the court hearings.

The Government responded that workers had been told they were free to view the proceedings, as long as they were approved to leave work. The BTUC said that the letters, dated October 23 and November 10, also “denied permission for executive officers of the unions who are public officers to attend the court hearing”.

The BTUC told public workers to stay on the job pending a ruling to be made by Chief Justice Ian Kawaley on the first day of the hearing.

In response, however, the Government said workers had never been denied permission.

A spokeswoman said: “Instead, our concern has always been that they should not unlawfully absent themselves from work.

“The head of the Civil Service wrote to the BTUC member unions on October 23 stating that public sector workers could attend court proceedings should they ask for and obtain the permission from their supervisors. Counsel reiterated this position on November 10.

“In fact, the very essence of these court proceedings involves the fact that workers in the public service absented themselves from work in January 2015 for three days without permission.”

Calling the tenor of the BTUC’s remarks “unfortunate”, the spokeswoman added that unions had been invited on October 23 to resolve the dispute without resorting to court, but that no response had been forthcoming.