Public transit hit by BIU labour action
“Every aspect” of the island’s public transport system will feel the pinch from a weeklong union restriction on working hours, the transport minister warned.
Lawrence Scott said bus cancellations could reach as many as 100 routes a day and ferry routes would also be hit. This morning 54 routes were cancelled - 52 bus routes were called off yesterday afternoon.
Mr Scott was speaking after the Bermuda Industrial Union introduced a work to rule last Friday.
The move was part of its feud with the Government over union decertification votes in the workplace.
Mr Scott explained cancellation of one bus would have a knock-on effect on other routes.
He added: “Therefore, one operator can have a significant impact on the whole schedule for the day.”
Mr Scott said he had highlighted the limited resources for public transport during the Budget debate in March – including running low on “high-value assets, which is the buses”.
He added: “We already need to recruit more, and we are in the process of recruiting, an additional 24 bus operators, so that means that we are officially short-staffed and then, on top of that, we don’t have the budget to supplement any supplementary service - that is, minibuses.
“When you do all of that, the only way to offset those shortcomings is through overtime.
“Without operators working overtime we now will have to see significant impact, mainly to the Department of Public Transportation, but similar situations to that will happen in Marine & Ports, DPT and the like.”
Mr Scott said that buses would still get the necessary service, but that maintenance would require taking them off the road instead of carrying passengers.
He said resolving the dispute was a question for Jason Hayward, the labour minister, or “possibly even the Premier”, David Burt.
Mr Hayward earlier insisted that changes to labour law that came into force on June 1 “did not change the legislation as it pertains to the cancellation of union certification”.
Mr Hayward said on the Progressive Labour Party’s Facebook page that a standoff with the BIU over decertification had hit at a time when “workers and the country can least afford it”.
Chris Furbert, the BIU president, has said that changes under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 2021 posed a threat to the union’s survival by allowing non-union members a vote on whether to keep union representation in their workplace.
But Mr Hayward’s Facebook post insisted: “The language that exists in the current legislation mirrors the language that existed in the old Trade Union Act and the amendments for the cancellation of union certification were brought into force in May 2000, under a PLP Government.
“The BIU is aggrieved that the Government did not strip away rights of non-unionised workers in a bargaining unit during a Government-administered workplace cancellation of certification ballot where an agency shop agreement exists.”
He added that it would be “unconscionable for anyone to believe that I, as the Minister of Labour, would do anything that would weaken or destroy the country’s trade unions”.
Mr Furbert announced last Friday that the BIU had opted for one week of work to rule - normal hours only, with no overtime - with a review planned for Friday.
Neither side has backed down on decertification – but Mr Furbert suggested on Friday that the BIU might accept the legislation if an agreement could be reached for a higher bar to be set for the voting majority on decertification.
Mr Hayward said the new labour code was “the most pro-worker legislation that has been progressed by any government in Bermuda’s history”.
He added: “However, it must be noted the composition of workers who are eligible to vote in a bargaining unit did not change from the old legislation brought into force under the PLP Government in 2000 and the new legislation brought into force last week.
“I must repeat, in any organised workplace, the same workers who could participate in a ballot to cancel a union’s certification last year, are the same workers who can participate in the ballot this year.
“There is no change.”
Mr Hayward said the legislation “positively impacts unions by placing restrictions on the persons who can trigger the decertification process and by making it easier for a union to advance an automatic certification”.
Mr Hayward said he was convinced “reason will prevail”.
But he added it would be “negligent of us to strip away existing worker’s workplace rights because it is politically expedient”.
⋅ To read the minister’s statement in full, click on the PDF under “Related Media”.