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Taxpayers on the hook in airport dispute

Airport dispute: government lawyers are now contesting a redundancy claim by former BAS Serco airport workers

The Attorney-General’s Chambers is to represent former airport ground services firm BAS Serco in a dispute over redundancy payments to staff, The Royal Gazette can reveal.

And, if a legal bid by former staff to win redundancy payments from BAS Serco is successful, the taxpayer will end up footing the bill for the payments.

CI², based in Atlanta, Georgia, took over airport services from BAS Serco, which had provided support operations at the airport for 20 years and took on the 40 staff employed by the outgoing company.

But BAS Serco workers said they were entitled to redundancy payments and certificates of termination from BAS Serco.

Jason Hayward, president of the Bermuda Public Services Union, which represents about 25 of the 40 affected staff, said: “Bermuda’s industrial relations has sunken to an all-time low when the Government, which is the overseer of labour legislation, resorts to representing private firms in their attempts to deny workers severance pay and certificates of termination.”

He added: “At the core of BAS Serco’s reluctance to accept the severance liability for its former employees is the Government indemnifying the local company of any liability.

“This shines some clarity on why the company has taken what we consider to be an unreasonable position.”

Mr Hayward said that the union was moving through a tribunal process, but warned that the dispute could end up in the courts if a tribunal rules against the former BAS Serco staff.

A letter from law firm Conyers Dill & Pearman, which had represented BAS Serco in the dispute, seen by The Royal Gazette, confirmed that the Attorney-General’s Chambers had taken over the case.

It said: “Please note that in light of an indemnity arrangement between BAS Serco and the Government of Bermuda in relation to severance costs, the AG’s Chambers has opted to take over the representation of BAS Serco in relation to the claims for severance against BAS Serco.”

The contract won by the Atlanta company covers air traffic control, ground electronics and weather services at the airport.

The BPSU argues that, under two sections of the Employment Act, the former BAS Serco staff are entitled to cash payments from their former employer.

It is understood that other former BAS Serco staff who are not members of the BPSU, have sought independent legal advice on their position.

BAS Group, originally involved in the aircraft servicing business, has expanded to a group of ten companies.

It now provides services such as facilities management to Hamilton office blocks like the Argus Building, the Bermuda Monetary Authority, HSBC and Corner House.

CI² supplies similar services to airports in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands and also supplies air traffic control and weather observation services to a total of 20 airport control towers in the United States.