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BIU calls off protest slated for today

Time to talk? Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union (File photograph)

Industrial action by unionised workers today in protest at new union decertification laws has been called off at the eleventh hour.

Chris Furbert, the Bermuda Industrial Union president, said that in the interests of reopening dialogue between the union and the Government, the protest had been called off.

BIU members were to down tools today as part of a long-running dispute with the Government over who could take part in workplace decertification votes.

Mr Furbert declined to say if the union had started negotiations with the Government, saying he did not want talks to proceed in the media spotlight.

But he admitted that there had been communication between the two sides and that negotiations looked poised to start.

Mr Furbert said: “We are looking at getting back to the table and, for that reason, in the interests of good faith, it doesn’t make any sense to hold further protests at this time.

“There will be no protest tomorrow – protests have been put on hold for the time being.”

The row broke out last December when the Progressive Labour Party government refused to make changes to a clause in labour laws that dated back to the 1960s.

The longstanding clause, which allows non-union members of a bargaining agreement to vote in a decertification ballot, was opposed by the BIU and the Bermuda Public Services Union.

But the BPSU had dropped its objections by the time the Act came into force in June, which sparked BIU allegations that it has been abandoned by its sister union.

Tensions escalated in August when Mr Furbert called for the resignations of David Burt, the Premier, and Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour if the Government refused to climb down.

But the Government held its ground and insisted that changes to the legislation were “non-negotiable”.

The deadlock continued after the BIU held two days of strike action and protest marches at the start of the month.

The protest meant the cancellation of bus services and confrontations between marchers and Cabinet ministers outside government offices on Church Street.

Mr Furbert promised then that weekly protests would be held from today.

But he hinted at signs of progress on September 3 after Mr Burt appealed to the BIU to “come back to the table, to engage in the agreement”.

He said at the time: “Today – and I’m hoping to get it to the Premier sometime this afternoon – we have a letter prepared for the Premier, to give him a letter, and that letter has in it that the BIU, in the interests of the country, in the interests of the people of Bermuda, will ask for the parties to come back to the table to resolve this issue.”

A government spokeswoman said last night: “There has been an exchange of correspondence between the BIU and the Govermment.

“There is a mutual interest in further dialogue.”

UPDATE: this article has been amended to clarify that the dispute is over a clause in the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 2021 that has been in place since 2000, not any of those that have been recently amended

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Published September 13, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated September 13, 2021 at 11:11 am)

BIU calls off protest slated for today

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