Bus dispute talks now set for tomorrow
Union officials are to talk to managers tomorrow morning to try to resolve the on-going bus dispute.
The Bermuda Industrial Union membership is understood to be standing firm in its demand to get the bus driver, who was involved in an accident, reinstated.
If the female driver, who has been suspended for seven weeks, is not given her job back, the workers are understood to have voted to give notice to go on strike.
Glen Simmons, president and shop steward of the bus operators and allied workers division, said he wanted to speak to management before he revealed the specifics of the two-hour closed-door meeting. Both parties have agreed to meet first thing tomorrow.
He said: “We have asked to sit down with managers within an hour-and-a-half to try to resolve this issue. We will then work out the logistics in going forward”.
Mr Simmons told a press conference said that the bus service had resumed “for the time being as we try to resolve this”.
It follows a lengthy meeting at the BIU headquarters, which was attended by up to about 100 bus drivers and mechanics.
Drivers arrived at the BIU at about 10.20am in two buses and did not leave until about 12.50pm. There were disruptions to all buses across the Island during this time.
There were also angry scenes outside as drivers came outside for cigarette breaks. One driver said: “I'm not standing for this madness”, while another said: “This is all lies, they aren't listening to us”.
At one point, five drivers appeared to storm out as a colleague chased them down the road and encouraged them to return to the meeting.
UBP leader Kim Swan today urged unions not to take industrial action, saying it would send out the wrong message locally and internationally.
“We urge the union, its members and the government to further consider the current state of Bermuda - engulfed with difficulties economically and socially - to find a solution at the bargaining table or by mediation in the national interest.
“When considering the impact of industrial action to the tourism industry, cruise ships have become invaluable to our struggling tourism economy, as more than 55 percent of our tourists now come to Bermuda via cruise ships. Industrial action resulting in work stoppage of buses will adversely affect tourism and our image overseas.
“Consider the rocky start to our tourism season - when issues regarding public transportation in Dockyard resulted in complaints and negative publicity internationally - kicked the cruise season off with prolific bad press.
“At this time, midway into the same season, any disruption of service caused by a labour dispute, will place an already challenged tourism industry under further strain. From a local standpoint, daily work commuters dependent on public transportation bus service will also be inconvenienced and bear the brunt of the work stoppage.”
In Hamilton today locals and visitors were stranded at the bus terminal, not knowing when or if service would resume.
“They really should have put up a sign or something,” said Oliver Redmond, who is visiting the Island with his family from Atlanta.
“We were planning on going to the caves today, but I have not idea how we're going to get there and back. We bought bus passes, but they're not worth much if the buses don't run.”
One St George's man said: “We should have sorted all this out last time. They can't keep going on strike like this.
“Not all of us can afford taxis. Some of us rely on the busses to get to work in the mornings.”