SAL industrial action escalates
Staff at the hardware store SAL did not work for a second day yesterday following a dispute with management over the potential firing of a longstanding colleague.
Wornell Steede, chief union shop steward at SAL, said about 15 staff members walked off the job at the Southampton hardware store and concrete production plant on Monday after he claimed a garage supervisor was threatened with dismissal.
The management called police to attend the premises as the dispute escalated and staff walked out. A police spokesman confirmed that officers attended SAL Southampton to speak with both parties and said “the matter was settled amicably“.
But when workers turned up for work at SAL yesterday morning the gate was locked and the locks had been changed, Mr Steede said.
And Vance Campbell, chief executive at SAL and a Progressive Labour Party MP, said the company now planned to terminate Mr Steede in part as a result of Monday’s confrontation.
He said no decision had been made on the fate of the garage supervisor who has not been named, but said a verbal warning had been issued to him based upon his performance.
Furthermore, Mr Campbell said SAL, owned by businessman Wendell Brown, had informed the Bermuda Industrial Union that it intended to terminate Mr Steede “on the grounds of serious misconduct, inclusive of threatening behaviour and gross insubordination”.
Mr Steede said the union members are calling for the resignation of a garage manager who told the garage supervisor he had considered letting him go and that he was receiving a final warning.
He added that the manager had used “bully tactics” against the supervisor, a claim that Mr Campbell denied.
Mr Steede said: “If the company can’t get him [the garage manager] to show some respect towards his co-workers, and continues to defend his bullying tactics, he can go. It’s about respect.
“There are 15 of us downing tools now but it will grow – there will be about 20 of us tomorrow. We are downing tools today, we will down tools tomorrow and for as long as it takes. We will take it all the way.
“We have a major meeting with Bermuda Industrial Union on Thursday and if this is not resolved we will take it to a labour tribunal.
“We want to resolve the issue so we are asking the garage manager to come and sit down like a man and talk to us.
“We had a union issue and they made it into a police issue. Police took a statement from management and we counteracted that statement – we were not doing anything wrong.”
Mr Campbell said: “SAL does not agree that the garage manager has utilised ‘bully tactics’ against the garage supervisor. There is no reason to take action against the garage manager.
“We do not intend to take any action for false claims against the garage manager at this point in time. However, that does not prevent the garage manager from taking legal advice on doing so in a personal capacity.”
Mr Campbell refused to release the name of the garage manager while Mr Steede said he did not know the name of the manager who has only been at the company for about two months.
Mr Steede said that Chris Furbert, the president of the BIU, made contact with Mr Campbell yesterday, adding: “SAL is not moving and now they want to fire me for standing up for my rights.
“They said they want to discipline the garage supervisor – we won’t accept any disciplinary action against the garage supervisor and there is a process you have to go through before you can terminate anyone.”
Directing his message to the managers at SAL, Mr Steede added: “We are not coming to work until you recognise that we are not your problem, that man there is the problem.
“We are standing strong.”