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Union says bus driver must be reinstated

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Union bosses have demanded that a suspended bus driver be reinstated even though she has repeatedly refused to take a drug test after being involved in an accident.

The Bermuda Industrial Union wanted to see the woman back in the driver’s seat by today as she’s been off work for about seven weeks.

The BIU insists the correct procedures were not followed when transport bosses sought a drugs test after the accident, which resulted in a passenger needing hospital treatment.

But the Department of Public Transportation (DPT) is standing firm saying it refuses to adhere to the union’s ultimatum. They claim the woman, who has been a bus driver for four years, has “her future in her own hands” as she will only get her job back if she takes a drug test.

But the BIU is now threatening to take further action with the option of a strike being put to bus drivers and mechanics at a union meeting this weekend.

The employment dispute stems from an accident in Paget when one bus rolled a couple of feet into another bus as passengers were transferred between the two vehicles. The accident on Friday, June 24 resulted in a female passenger being taken to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital with hand injuries.

The driver in question had pulled her bus into a lay-by and summoned a backup bus as her vehicle was experiencing power problems. The handbrake had not been put on and the two buses collided, trapping the hand of a passenger trying to board.

BIU president Chris Furbert held a press conference yesterday to question why only one of the two bus drivers was asked to be drug-tested and why a drug test had not been requested until three days later.

He said the female bus driver was allowed to continue to drive the number seven bus to Dockyard after the accident and was only asked for a drug test when she returned to work on Monday, June 27.

Mr Furbert said the drug test was requested without informing the union shop steward and the bus driver had refused several test dates “based on principle”.

Mr Furbert said the DPT had “dropped the ball” in failing to immediately get a urine test, then asking her to take a hair follicle drug test a few days later.

He said: “From day one the drugs policy hasn’t been followed. They can’t change the policy like this, they have to be consistent.

“There were two bus operators involved and only one has been called in for a drugs test. And she was only asked on Monday morning when she went into work.

“We have to set the precedent here, they have got to toe the line.”

Negotiations are understood to have been taking place since June while both parties waited for an accident investigation to be carried out. Government say the investigation determined the driver was solely to blame for the accident.

However, Government and BIU remain at loggerheads with Mr Furbert yesterday giving the DPT 24 hours to reinstate the bus driver with full pay and benefits. His deadline for the woman to have her job back was 10pm last night.

The Ministry of Transport yesterday issued a lengthy statement stating that a condition of DPT employment was that a bus driver must have a drugs test if s/he is involved in an accident that causes a person to require hospital treatment.

A ministry spokesman said the bus driver had failed to immediately report the accident as she should have done, phoned in sick for the weekend then continually refused to take a drug test.

He said: “Contrary to claims by Bermuda Industrial Union President, Chris Furbert that the Ministry had failed to get a urine test from the operator after the accident the operator had in fact, refused to report to DPT as instructed on the same day as the accident, and has refused every opportunity since then to be tested.

“It is unfortunate that the BIU has issued us with an ultimatum to reinstate this operator without a substance abuse test being administered.

“It is clear that this situation has been caused by the driver’s refusal to follow policy and we sincerely hope that reason prevails and that the public will not be inconvenienced by unreasonable demands”.

The Ministry spokesman said they only found out about the accident from the bus driver who took along the replacement bus. He said the driver was radioed and instructed to report to the head office for a drug test, but she then reported sick for the weekend.

He said: “Our policies are in the best interest of passenger safety.

“This situation has been caused by the operator. Her future as a DPT bus operator is in her own hands.

“Management has been more than reasonable and has provided ample opportunity for this driver to be tested in accordance with our policy. Continued refusal to be tested may lead to dismissal.

“We can assure the operator that she will be reinstated as soon as the relevant testing has been completed”.

The Ministry of Transport statement explains a positive result in any drug test means a bus driver receives treatment and counselling rather than being automatically dismissed.

BIU President Chris Furbert.
This is where we are; BIU president Chris Furbert addresses the media during a press conference held at BIU headquarters with regards to dock-workers and PTB . Photo by

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Published August 12, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 12, 2011 at 9:11 am)

Union says bus driver must be reinstated

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