The strike of ‘81 cost us dearly
March 6 2014
I wonder if many people remember the May 1981 strike — the one that destroyed Bermuda's hotel industry. Every single hotel, cottage colony and guest house had every single room occupied. The Island was bursting at the seams with tourists. In May 1981 the BIU, in its wisdom, ordered the hotel workers out on sympathy strike. No notice was given. For days the non-union workers in the hotels tried to keep open, but it was not possible. Our tourists were forced to carry their suitcases across the Causeway. After a short time the hotels had no choice but to close their doors and every single tourist had to leave the Island. That was in 1981. I suppose you could say the BIU won the battle but certainly lost the war as close to 100 tourist properties have since closed down.
Now we have constant strikes by the buses and ferries and the BIU don't want them to be classed as “essential services”. I agree, don't make them essential services — first they aren't essential and secondly they certainly don't give a service. Just look at the photograph on the front of the RG to see the type of people giving this “service”. Let the union win this battle but, again, they will lose the war. Their only reason for these wildcat strikes is to bring down the OBA Government and get their friends back into power.
There is a solution. Let the union have their way and don't make the buses and ferries “essential services” — it makes no difference anyway as the BIU called out the hotels in 1981 even though they were supposed to give the hotels 21 days' notice. Does anyone really think the BIU would stand by any agreement to give notice to strike? Of course not.
My only concern is for the poor people and schoolchildren who depend on the bus and ferry services for transportation. The very next strike of the bus and ferry services let's all agree to stop at every single bus stop where someone is waiting for a bus and drive that person (or child) into town or close to where they have to go. Car drivers would need to have some sort of coloured ribbon clearly showing on their vehicles, indicating their willingness to pick up passengers. I know numerous people who would be delighted to offer this service to stranded passengers. In fact, this could be done on an ongoing service so some of the bus and ferry workers won't need to work at all.
The BIU must agree that their “strikers” will not be expected to be paid for the days they are on strike. That is the law in every country in the world and should be applied here. The Government will save some money in wages. I think this will be a win-win situation.
I wonder if the BIU has some hidden agenda to produce jobs for our unemployed workers. If they do, I sincerely hope that they will tell us soon, so that we can all stop worrying about getting new investors to the Island and just rely on the BIU to come up with job opportunities.