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More than 30 bus operators affected by Covid – buses off the roads today

All quiet: Bus services were called off on Friday following a Covid-related dispute between drivers and DPT management (File photo)

Striking bus drivers have dismissed claims by Department of Transport chiefs that staff safety is a priority – after revealing that more than 30 operators have been struck down or affected by the Covid-19 virus.

Bus services ground to a halt late on Friday following all-day discussions between drivers and management over safety protocols. There will be no bus service again today.

Government initially claimed that services had been shelved because of low staffing levels. But it later conceded that staff had taken strike action because of “concerns over health and safety standards in the workplace”.

While acknowledging that staff dissatisfaction over health regulations had resulted in the walkout by drivers, DPT bosses maintained that they considered “the health, safety and wellbeing of all bus operators, staff and commuters the highest priority”.

But operators hit back, pointing out that, with many drivers already infected due to the high-risk nature of the job, services needed to be postponed to prevent further spread.

In an e-mail to transport bosses and Government, Eugene Ball, the Bermuda Industrial Union bus division president, said: “How can our leaders say that they care about our wellbeing – care about the staff – when we have more than 30 per cent of the membership out and they have done nothing about it?

“If the media knew the truth of what we are dealing with, members of Government and management would be a laughing stock. They should be ashamed.

“I have received calls asking if we can offer doing a Sunday schedule because we are so short on operators, because of Covid.

“It’s really bothering to know that we have over 30 cases at DPT and our own management team still deems it safe for all to work and not shut down the property even for one day to clean everything for the well being of its members.

“Are your going to say that you have put safety and health first?“

Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, expressed similar concerns.

“I’m not sure why the management team of DPT did not tell you that over 30 operators are off the job because they have tested positive or have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive,” he told The Royal Gazette.

Mr Furbert added that Government had agreed to shut down services earlier this year after five drivers tested positive. That break was granted to allow staff to recover, get tested, and circuit-break the spread of infections within the high-risk department.

Mr Furbert said: “It would appear that DPT management team care more about the buses running then the safety of their staff.”

Last night the Department of Public Transport (DPT) said there will be no bus service today.

“On Friday evening, DPT confirmed that the bus service had been interrupted due to industrial action taken by the Bus Operators. The operators raised concerns regarding health and safety standards in the workplace,” said a spokeswoman.

“The DPT remains fully committed to ensuring the safest possible environment for all DPT staff and will continue the sanitisation practices and safety measures required by the Ministry of Health, including daily deep cleaning of all buses.

“Discussions were held over the weekend, and today the DPT management will meet again with the BIU to address concerns raised by the staff with the hope that the public bus service may resume on Tuesday,” said the spokeswoman.

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Published September 20, 2021 at 9:12 am (Updated September 20, 2021 at 9:12 am)

More than 30 bus operators affected by Covid – buses off the roads today

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