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Dock dispute simmers on as talks are deadlocked

Port of Hamilton dock workers walk off the job on Thursday after a labour dispute (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Talks to end industrial action by union workers on Hamilton docks remained deadlocked last night.

Warren Jones, the chief executive of Polaris Holding Company, the parent company of Stevedoring Services, said there had been “no resolution” after 32 dock-workers walked off the job on Thursday.

Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, said that the union’s divisional president at the docks had been suspended for five days from Thursday after workers held a meeting that company management said was unauthorised.

A dispute has simmered between the company and its unionised staff since Stevedoring Services, hard-hit by the drop in business caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, introduced cutbacks in the summer.

The company announced a hiring freeze in August and said it would outsource its garage service to cut costs.

Mr Furbert said he had requested a meeting last week with dock-workers over the garage outsourcing, which he said had left just one mechanic at the garage where five had worked.

Mr Furbert said he got a letter on Wednesday from Mr Jones on Wednesday which told him that the company did not recognise “the president and other officers of the union” because the BIU had not yet held an election for the posts.

He added: “We have bent over backwards to work with Stevedoring Services. We got a letter saying they don’t recognise our officers. A company doesn’t get to tell us who our officers are.”

He declined to identify the suspended divisional president.

Unionised staff unloaded essential cargo only from the Bermuda Islander container ship, which arrived in Hamilton as the dispute broke out early on Thursday, in line with their collective bargaining agreement.

The next cargo ship, the Oleander, is scheduled to arrive on Sunday night.

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Published November 21, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated November 20, 2020 at 7:44 pm)

Dock dispute simmers on as talks are deadlocked

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