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No deal to avoid two-day strike scheduled for today

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Chris Furbert, Bermuda Industrial Union president
A BIU protest march (File photograph)

The Bermuda Industrial Union last night vowed to push ahead with a two-day strike today despite a warning that it would hurt the most vulnerable members of the public.

Walter Roban, the Acting Premier, said: “The next two days will hurt those who can least afford it.”

Mr Roban, who branded the move “unlawful” last week because there was no valid labour dispute, said: “Families will be under more pressure, working women and men will have added stress and businesses will be faced with even more uncertainty.

“All of this at a time when we are doing our utmost to get people back to work, to move beyond the pandemic, which has had a devastating impact on everyone’s finances and personal wellbeing.”

He was speaking after Chris Furbert, the Bermuda Industrial Union president, said there had been no eleventh-hour talks with the Government over a months-long deadlock over voting rights on union decertification.

Mr Furbert added there would an announcement to supporters after an 8am meeting at the BIU headquarters in Hamilton, where workers in non-essential services, which includes public transport, are to meet.

Essential service workers are required to give three weeks’ notice of industrial action and are expected to join the labour disruption in 21 days unless a deal was brokered.

Mr Roban and Jason Hayward, the labour minister, have both insisted the Government will hold firm on its position regarding decertification.

Trade union legislation, passed last December in the House of Assembly, sparked union criticism after it stuck to the rule that all employees in a workplace bargaining unit could take part in ballots for union certification and decertification.

The Bermuda Public Services Union backed the Government’s stance, despite a call from the BIU for other unions to support the action.

Essential services include healthcare workers, firefighters and prison officers, trash collectors and the Department of Marine and Ports.

Mr Furbert added that more information would be released in an address to union members at Union Square between 8.30am and 8.45am.

Mr Roban said: “I cannot understand how the Bermuda Industrial Union leadership is so determined to remove workplace rights from workers.

“The Government remains firm in its position, a principled position, that preserves rights for all workers, and has no intention to amend the legislation.”

Mr Roban said the BIU’s original position that only union members should have a say in workplace ballots “appears to have shifted”.

He added: “Now, the union supports non-members who pay 100 per cent of their salary deductions to the union participating in a ballot.”

He said there had been a “totally false” accusation that the Government “no longer supports labour and is out to destroy the unions”.

Mr Roban defended the Government’s record and highlighted a new labour code with increased workers’ benefits and workplace protection that came into force on June 1.

He said that more than $70 million in unemployment benefits had been paid out over the pandemic, as well as more than $10 million paid out to redundant Fairmont Southampton staff after the hotel’s owner failed to meet a deadline for severance payouts.

Mr Roban added that job training for out-of-work Bermudians was offered by the Department of Workforce Development and that extra job categories had been closed to work-permit holders to protect Bermudian workers.

He said: “The Government will continue to support the workers of Bermuda and will be unwavering in our commitment to improving the Bermudian economy.”

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Published August 30, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated August 30, 2021 at 12:56 pm)

No deal to avoid two-day strike scheduled for today

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