Dock row may affect visiting cruise ship
Veendam cruise ship will have to bypass the East End on Tuesday if dockworkers continue with their overtime ban.
The vessel will cancel its stay at Murray’s Anchorage in order to get to Hamilton early enough for staff to tie it up before finishing work at 4.30pm, according to Meyer Shipping agent Joe Simas.
Yesterday afternoon, Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert said nothing had changed on the dispute which has led to 40 dockworkers working only from 8am to noon, and from 1pm to 4.30pm, from Monday to Friday.
Meanwhile Economy Minister Kim Wilson called for union bosses and dock managers to settle their differences as she warned the matter could go to arbitration.
Mr Simas told
The Royal Gazette: “The
Veendam will have to bypass St George’s and head to Hamilton early if the overtime ban continues.
“This will inconvenience the town folks who are struggling enough as it is, and it’s our tourism product: it will inconvenience some of the tourists.”
Union members are refusing to offload any shipping containers during evenings and weekends after a breakdown in negotiations between BIU and bosses at Stevedoring Services.
Peter Aldrich, general manager of Stevedoring, said: “Our staff continue to work diligently and have achieved good production today despite the back log created by the overtime ban, for which we are grateful.
“I am hoping that any delays experienced by local importers are minimal and are at least for now tolerable.
“One unfortunate consequence of the overtime ban is our inability now to tie up or let go the M/V
Veendam outside of normal working hours in Hamilton.
“I have asked the union in Bermuda’s interest and that of local tourism, to reconsider this decision and to continue to service cruise vessels as usual. As of yet we are still awaiting their reply.”
The dispute began when about 25 workers were asked to come in just three or four day a week depending on the number of ships arriving. They declined that offer and Stevedoring suggested temporary layoffs as a last resort.
The BIU port workers division then gave five days notice and began the overtime ban on Wednesday.
Sen Wilson said the
Oleander is likely to be the only container ship facing unloading delays as a result of the ban but warned she would take action to prevent “further negative effects on the economy”.
She said a labour relations officer will mediate the issue and she would refer it to arbitration if necessary.
“I can confirm I have received a notice from Stevedoring Services indicating that a labour dispute exists,” the Minister said in a statement.
“A labour relations officer will mediate this issue and liaise with the relevant parties with a view to seeking a solution to the matter.
“In the event that a settlement is not reached via mediation, as Minister, I will refer this matter to arbitration.
“However, I must take this opportunity to address public concerns regarding the timely delivery of perishable and non perishable goods.
“There seems to be some unease in the community that the delivery of goods will be severely hindered due to the industrial action.
“It should be clearly pointed out that the overtime ban which has been instituted applies to the hours of 5.30pm to 10pm and on Sundays.
“As it relates to the delivery of produce, I have been advised that currently we have one container ship that comes in outside of regular weekday hours, and that is the
Oleander, which typically arrives on Sundays.
“Ideally the preference is to unload the ship on Sunday when it arrives. However, with the current overtime ban, it means that the
Oleander will now be unloaded on Monday, and the produce will likely make it to the shelves a few hours later than normal. I think an important note for the public to understand is that current container loads are down, and thus reduced container loads, have resulted in reduced unloading times.
“That said, I am very cognisant of the current economic climate and the concerns expressed about any further hindrance to our trade and commerce.
“I want to again assure residents and businesses that I will be monitoring the situation very closely, and it is my hope that all parties can come to an agreement as swiftly as possible to ensure that there are no further negative effects on our economy.”
United Bermuda Party leader Kim Swan said the matter needs to be resolved urgently especially as the economy is in such a fragile state.
“The dockworkers impasse comes at a critical time in Bermuda when we are struggling both economically and socially,” said Mr Swan in a statement.
“It is clear when looking at this situation that both sides, labour and management, have solid positions to defend.
“Notwithstanding, the backdrop of present day Bermuda must enter into the equation as this matter escalates and plays itself out publicly.
“This issue may be best settled by arbitration if it is unlikely that the disagreements cannot be resolved at the negotiation table.
“In addition, it is important for us to appreciate that imports into Bermuda have diminished considerably, clearly a reflection of an economic downturn.
“At the same time we are hearing more and more that many local companies are hanging on by a thread and quietly numerous international companies are downsizing, to the extent that shipments out of Bermuda have increased.
“Consequently, unless the two sides can work matters out, in this essential area, arbitration appears necessary to avoid disruption in the national interest.”
One distributor warned of the potential knock-on effects of the action, telling this newspaper: “Our service levels will be impacted negatively because we normally unload on Sunday nights and get the produce out first thing on Monday morning.
“With this overtime ban, we won’t be able to do that.”