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Govt: ‘Our position is clear, it has not changed’

Transport Minister Terry Lister has announced he has “absolutely nothing more to say” about the labour dispute which could see further disruptions to bus services.

The Department of Public Transportation and Bermuda Industrial Union today remain at loggerheads over whether a suspended bus driver should take a drugs test to be reinstated.

The seven-week dispute appears to have come to a standstill with union officials and the Ministry both refusing to back down. It is understood that the proposed crunch talks planned for yesterday morning failed to take place.

Glenn Simmons, president and shop steward of the bus operators and allied workers division, told

The Royal Gazette yesterday afternoon they were “still waiting for the call from management”.

The BIU wants to tell the Ministry the details of the members’ decision to stand by its collective agreement. They want the female bus driver, who was involved in an accident, which injured a passenger, to be reinstated because the DPT failed to follow the correct drug testing procedure by asking for a hair follicle instead of a urine drugs test.

But the DPT insists the drugs test has to be taken before the driver will be given her job back. They say she did not immediately report the accident and has failed to show up for dugs tests on five separate occasions.

If negotiations break down and an amicable agreement is not reached, the BIU will then call another members’ meeting to put further action to the vote.

Bus drivers are understood to be willing to give 24 hours notice to work to rule. All staff will only work their set 37.5 hours a week, which will disrupt some routes and take all sightseeing buses off the road. Mr Lister was sent a series of questions about the bus dispute yesterday. He did not address the questions, but he did say: “There’s still absolutely nothing to say on the bus dispute. Our position is clear, it has not changed”.

Mr Lister said he had been in Cabinet all day and he had not been involved in any meetings with the BIU.

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.

Angry locals and tourists were then left stranded on Monday when about 100 drivers and mechanics interrupted services to attend a “very tense” two-hour union meeting at the BIU headquarters.

Drivers could be seen walking into the meeting wearing ‘BIU 4 Life’ badges, but several walked out complaining that no one was listening to them. One bus driver said: “That was a hot meeting, there were lots of lies”.

The suspended bus driver attended Monday’s union meeting, but did not speak. The second bus driver involved in the accident voluntarily went for a drugs test last week.

Bus drivers stand outside the Bermuda Industrial Union headquarters on Monday.

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Published August 17, 2011 at 2:00 am (Updated August 17, 2011 at 9:59 am)

Govt: ‘Our position is clear, it has not changed’

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