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War of words continues over bus service dispute

Road to nowhere: buses were parked up at the Hamilton bus depot during yesterday’s dispute (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Transport workers walked off the job yesterday because of a dispute over “an ongoing disciplinary matter”, it has been revealed.

And the Bermuda Public Services Union has taken a swipe at transport officials, claiming that the matter was resolved only after the Government “rightfully agreed to amend its original position”.

The unannounced action left commuters stranded as bus services were sidelined for most of the day. Negotiations between the Bermuda Public Services Union and Department of Transport officials lasted throughout the day, with services finally resuming at around 7pm.

In a statement released late yesterday afternoon, a Ministry of Transport spokeswoman said that bus operators had shown up for work at the start of the day as scheduled, but that supervisors withdrew their services shortly after.

The spokeswoman said: “Yesterday’s disruption arose from a dispute regarding the administration of an ongoing disciplinary matter.

“After discussions between the parties yesterday, a resolution was agreed upon by all parties.

“The established grievance process was not followed and this will be addressed at the department’s next Joint Consultative Committee meeting and the next Central Consultative Committee meeting to prevent similar occurrences from happening in the future.”

Yesterday the BPSU defended the action, saying Government was to blame for not informing the public of potential disruptions in light of the dispute.

A statement issued by the union said it was “important to dispel some of the mistruths that are circulating within the community”.

“Through the collaborative efforts of the unions, Government, employer and human rights representatives, the island has adopted a modern legal framework that protects workers from discrimination, unsafe workplaces, bullying, harassment and incivility,” the statement said.

“While the union recognises the inconvenience caused as a result of our emergency discussions with Government yesterday, it is important to highlight that employers have a legal obligation to provide a working environment that protects individuals’ human rights and ensures the safety, health and well-being of all employees.

“In our role as representatives of the supervisors of the Department of Public Transportation, the BPSU is responsible for ensuring that these labour laws as well as the mutually agreed terms and conditions of the collective bargaining agreement are upheld by employers.

“Yesterday, the BPSU did exactly that and as a result, the Government rightfully agreed to amend its original position.

“Much has been said regarding the lack of information provided to the public regarding the resulting interruption in service.

“For clarity, this responsibility falls under the remit of Government. Currently, the Government utilises a process to communicate daily bus route cancellations to the public.

“Notifications are typically sent via e-mail blasts, announced on radio and through both electronic and social media. Given that Government was aware that there was a labour-related matter pertaining to DPT supervisors that required immediate attention, the public should have been duly notified from Government.

“The BPSU is committed to its ongoing efforts to strengthening labour relations in Bermuda and has a proud history of responsible unionism. The Union will continue to be mindful of the services provided to the public by our membership while at the same time upholding workers’ rights that have been hard-fought for.”

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Published February 18, 2021 at 8:02 am (Updated February 18, 2021 at 8:02 am)

War of words continues over bus service dispute

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