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Union condemns Ascendant Group cuts

The Electrical Supply Trade Union is imposing work to rule, and demanding the “immediate reinstatement” of four Bermudian workers “displaced” at Ascendant Group, according to a statement issued by Jason Hayward, president of the Bermuda Trade Union Congress.

The announcement came as David Burt, the Premier, tweeted: “As Belco staff raise issues of concern with recent redundancies, I sat down with ESTU members about the @bdagovernment's concern for the loss of #Bermudian jobs.

“We will not simply ignore practices that do not meet the highest standard of corporate community responsibility.”

In a statement Mr Burt said he had met with the ESTU today, along with transport minister Walter Roban and home affairs minister Walton Brown, after the departure of four senior Bermudian Belco executives.

Mr Burt said: “It was important to meet directly with the workers' representatives who are justifiably concerned at a pattern of action by the CEO and the board which is simply not in keeping with the community responsibility we expect from the company.

“The membership's reaction to this growing and seemingly deliberate culture of uncertainty that has only affected Bermudians is not something this Government will ignore.

“The management and Board of Ascendant have a responsibility to their shareholders first; but my responsibility and the responsibility of the Government is to the people. As the union and its members work through these issues, the Government is committed to supporting fair business practices that meet the highest standard of corporate community responsibility. Even a monopoly must act right.”

This afternoon, Mr Hayward said the BTUC, which has met today with the ESTU, was “gravely concerned with the manner in which Bermudian workers are being treated within the company”.

It came after talks between workers and the directors and CEO of Ascendant Group, Sean Durfy.

The BTUC accused Ascendant of a “ploy” to oust qualified Bermudians after four senior Bermudian staff were said to have been dismissed.

Calling the move “extremely alarming”, Mr Hayward's statement added: “These cuts come on the back of retaliatory redundancies that were made less than three weeks ago, as a result of the CEO not being able to obtain work permits for expatriate workers to displace qualified Bermudians.

“In particular, the workers are angered that Michael Daniel and Denton Williams, who both have served the company for 29 years respectively and had worked their from apprentice positions to senior management, were forced to leave.

“It is our understanding the board and the CEO targeted this particular group of senior Bermudians, which included Zehena Davis and Carol Ross-Desilva, because they did not agree with the manner in which the Board and the CEO were handling the affairs of the company and, in particular, the treatment of workers.”

The group said it marked the second time in the past three weeks that the ESTU had to call an emergency meeting.

Mr Hayward said that over the past three years there had been “approximately 20 qualified Bermudians” let go.

He called the actions of the board and CEO “the straw that broke the camel's back” and accused them of failing to value long-serving Bermudian staff.

“Workers are genuinely concerned about their job security and want clarity on the company's direction moving forward.”

“The ESTU is extremely shocked at the departures of Zehena Davis and Denton Williams as they were primarily responsible for heading the current round of industrial bargaining negotiations.

“These departures come at a very peculiar time as their alleged resignations occurred in the midst of talks which were scheduled for this week.”

Along with working to rule and calling for the reinstatement of the four, Mr Hayward's statement demanded the removal of both the CEO and CFO Robert Schaefer.

The BTUC also called for clarity from Ascendant management on six points:

• Succession planning of Bermudians in the Ascendant Group;

• The Regulatory Authority's requirements of BELCO;

• The “systematic outsourcing” of jobs;

• Access to accredited training and retraining;

• The allocation of savings that resulted from cost-cutting of employee wages and benefits;

• Whether the North Power station would be operated and maintained by the BELCO's employees.

The statement closed: “It is the BTUC's desire that the board of directors meet with the ESTU to bring a speedy resolve to this current impasse.”

Donald Lottimore, president of the Electrical Supply Trade Union (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published October 04, 2018 at 5:56 pm (Updated October 04, 2018 at 6:09 pm)

Union condemns Ascendant Group cuts

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