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Buses back on the roads today, but details of deal not known

A free minibus service temporarily replaced public buses, after public transport staff withdrew their labour amid fears over Covid-19. (Photograph by Aki Simmons)

The longstanding bus dispute has been resolved with buses now back in full operation.

Eugene Ball Jr, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union’s bus division, told The Royal Gazette last night that an offer was made by the Government in a meeting held on Tuesday and union members met yesterday and agreed to accept.

Mr Ball would not reveal the details of the deal but said: “We have come to an agreement with the government and we are back to work – the bus service is in full operation.

“The Bermuda Government and BIU met yesterday and we were able to come to an agreement which was taken to the membership this morning. The membership was satisfied.

“I am really happy for the fact we could get this done, we are back up and running and serving the public.”

Drivers walked off the job on September 17 because of health and safety fears related to Covid-19.

The dispute was resolved five days later – but a new row broke out after drivers said they should be paid for the time they were off work. It is not known if drivers have been paid or not.

The BIU maintained that the stoppage was caused by health and safety concerns and was not a labour dispute.

Mr Ball added: "Everything fell under health and safety – not labour.”

The ferry service, which was also subject to stoppages, returned to its regular schedule this morning.

The Ministry of Transport confirmed that the bus service resumed at 1pm today with all routes being serviced.

In a statement last night, Lawrence Scott, the Minister of Transport, said: “We are pleased that the bus and ferry service has resumed.

“We are grateful to the public for their patience and acknowledge residents who have stepped in to help others with transportation over the past ten days.

“Now that buses are operational, I’d like to remind passengers of the health and safety protocols. All passengers must follow public health guidelines and wear their mask fitted correctly to cover their nose and mouth, sanitise their hands when entering the bus.

“Each of us has a role to play in stopping the spread of the coronavirus.”

The Government sent the dispute to arbitration on Monday with the view that any further work stoppage would be ruled illegal and bus drivers would be forced back to work.

However, Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, confirmed that drivers had stayed off the job for a 12th day – and would continue to do so until the dispute was resolved.

The Government brought in private minibuses to provide a free service during the stoppage.

It has not been confirmed whether the minibus service has been halted following the resolution.

In a statement the Ministry of Transport said it was “pleased that the laws of Bermuda have been respected, and the bus operators returned to work earlier today following the Gazetting of a labour dispute on Monday by the Minister of Labour”.

A spokeswoman added: “The Ministry is also pleased that the staff represented by the Bermuda Industrial Union at the Department of Marine and Ports returned to work.

“When a matter has been referred by the Minister of Labour for Arbitration, parties are able to come to an agreement in advance of a tribunal.

“At this time, there is no finalised agreement on this matter, and if/when an agreement is finalised in advance of a tribunal, that will be shared with the public in the interest of full transparency.”

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Published September 30, 2021 at 7:56 am (Updated September 30, 2021 at 9:58 am)

Buses back on the roads today, but details of deal not known

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