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Unionised bus operators urged to drive medics

The president of the Bermuda Industrial Union said he had sympathy for concerns raised by unionised bus drivers over special services to get hospital staff to work, during the coronavirus crisis.

However, Chris Furbert said bus staff should be “compassionate” as the island battled Covid-19 and remember other union workers who had put themselves at risk on the front line.

Mr Furbert added: “While we understand the concerns about the operators and their safety, I must point out that our members that work at the hospital are directly at risk every day.

“We also have members in supermarkets, like cashiers, people who pack the shelves, the BIU service station and the credit union, that are all at risk every day.

He asked: “Can you imagine what would happen if these BIU members along with the doctors, nurses and police decided that they are not going to work? People would die and I don't mean to say that in a demeaning way, but this is very serious.”

Mr Furbert added: “I understand the challenges the operators have. But there are a number of BIU members that are faced with these similar challenges and I would like to think that we all have to be a little bit compassionate to what is going on here without disregarding safety.”

The special bus service for hospital workers was set up at the weekend after the Bermuda Hospitals Board asked for assistance from the Emergency Measures Organisation in the wake of a shutdown of public transport.

However, union bus operators were said to be “up in arms” over the Department of Public Transportation's request to transport frontline medical staff to and from the hospital.

It is understood that they felt that the Government had halted public transport to ensure public safety, but now wanted to put them back at risk from the contagious virus.

Mr Furbert said: “The employer reached out to some of the members to see whether or not they were willing to assist and there are various different reasons as to why the operators were having challenges.

“Be that as it may, some people are taking care of seniors, some people are taking care of their children. I understand all of those reasons, I got all that.

“But, remember, the hospital workers are also faced with the same situation.

“They have children and family members to take care of also, so everybody is kind of in this boat together.”

Mr Furbert added: “We are trying to work together to make sure that nobody is being disrespected at this point in time and we are not downplaying the safety precautions that need to be taken — making sure people have got gloves or hand sanitiser and those things that they need on a daily basis to make certain they keep themselves as safe as they possibly can.”

He said: “I support the cause and while I understand the bus operators' concerns, they raised some legitimate concerns, and if they have those legitimate concerns then management needs to listen to them.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Tourism and Transport and the Department of Public Transportation said that the temporary schedule would service routes 1, 3, 6, 7, 8 and 11 every day and would continue until normal bus services were restored.

The spokesman added that Royal Bermuda Regiment soldiers would ensure that only hospital staff used the service and that social-distancing guidelines were followed.

He thanked all DPT employees for “their commitment and flexibility as we rally in support of our community and navigate this challenge together”.

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Published March 31, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated March 31, 2020 at 8:26 am)

Unionised bus operators urged to drive medics

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