BIU defends overtime ban at Hamilton Docks
The Bermuda Industrial Union has denied claims that port workers issued an ultimatum to management before imposing a ban on overtime.
Dock-workers introduced the ban at the end of last month as a result of a long-running dispute over a sacked worker – the son of BIU president Chris Furbert.
At the time, Warren Jones, the chief executive of Polaris Holding Company and Stevedoring Services, the dock operator, said the union was demanding that Mr Furbert Jr be reinstated – something that the management refused to do.
But at a press conference today, Mr Furbert Sr said the union had made no such demand – but instead requested a meeting with the Polaris board to discuss the issue.
Mr Furbert produced a January 18 e-mail from Otis Minors, the president of the port workers division of the union, to Polaris board member Tracy Berkeley.
In that e-mail, Mr Minors said that members were concerned about the spiralling legal costs of the dispute – which has been before the courts for the past three years.
Mr Minors wrote in part: “The monthly dashboard shows extremely high legal cost with no end in sight.
“The port workers division have been involved in profit sharing with SSL for several years and these legal costs are directly impacting what we the workers would receive in our portion of profit sharing.”
Mr Minors said that port workers met to discuss the legal cost of the dispute and “moved a motion that this situation needs to be resolved ASAP”.
The e-mail states: “Therefore the port workers divisional executives and the union organiser are seeking an audience with the Polaris board as soon as possible.
“We would like to discuss with the Polaris board these points: reinstatement of Chris Furbert Jr in accordance with CBA; what is the cap for the legal costs; SSL discontinue their legal case and allow the matter to proceed to the tribunal without delay.”
The dispute flared up in February 2020 after Mr Furbert Jr was dismissed after an altercation with Mr Jones.
A police complaint was made about an alleged threat, but the Department of Public Prosecutions determined that no offence had been committed and no charges were brought.
Jason Hayward, the labour minister, later referred the matter to an industrial tribunal. That decision was disputed by SSL managers who called for a judicial review in the Supreme Court – which they subsequently lost. They are now taking their case to the Court of Appeal.
The overtime ban began on February 21 after a vote by port staff. But it was lifted a week later following another vote.
At the press conference, Mr Furbert Sr scotched speculation that he was pursuing the matter vigorously only because his son was involved.
He said: If you look at my history, my history speaks for itself. If there’s an injustice that has taken place ... I have a lot of experience as it relates to what happens on the docks.
“We had another meeting and the majority of workers agreed to go back to working overtime – that’s fine.
“We do understand the process and it may not always work in our favour, but these things happen.
“At no point in time did we demand that the employee be reinstated. So much so that we sent two letters to two members of the Polaris board clearly asking that we would like to have a discussion with the Polaris board – a discussion, not a demand.
“For them to say it was a demand and it was because of the employee, that’s not what the ban said.”
Asked to comment on reports that some port workers were calling for decertification, Mr Furbert replied: “I can’t comment on that. While the union understands the process of decertification and there might be some workers down there who are not satisfied with some of the things that are going, if you’re upset about the current general president, or upset about something else, is decertification the way to go?”
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