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BIU boss raises more issues regarding Hamilton Docks

Union boss Chris Furbert has hit out at managers at Hamilton Docks for “not cooperating” and putting the health of dockworkers at risk.

The Bermuda Industrial Union President touched upon several issues at a press conference yesterday saying he “wanted to open Pandora's Box” and “talk about management to give the public a clear picture.”

Mr Furbert is now accusing managers of also having “non-productive time” and raised the issue of the docks being “unsafe and unclean.”

Nearly 40 dockworkers have been refusing to work overtime for two weeks because of an ongoing union row with Stevedoring Services over how to eradicate their “non-productive time” due to the reduction in cargo volume.

Workers have only been working 37.5-hour weeks and refusing to offload any shipping containers during evenings and weekends.

Mr Furbert said yesterday: “Some of the managers have non-productive time too. We need to address this right across the board.”

Mr Furbert added, “all parties need to accept” the overtime ban, saying: “We aren't telling managers how to do their work, but if they want to get things done, communication is key here.”

Mr Furbert also questioned why there were formerly two superintendents for 67 dockworkers and now three superintendents for 38 workers.

He added there was always going to be “a difference of opinion with some things” but he hoped to come up with “a happy medium” as the union “wouldn't agree with everything management put on the table.”

James Douglas, vice president of the Port Workers Union, then explained how the docks were “rarely cleaned” compared to three years ago when they were cleaned daily by the Corporation of Hamilton.

He said the asphalt pavement added to the dust and carbon from the heavy machines and workers were “breathing all the chemicals in.”

Mr Douglas said: “The dust and carbon flies into the air … we're breathing in constant dirt.

“If I take a white cloth and wipe my brow, it's totally black.”

Mr Furbert added: “It now takes six to 12 months before the docks get cleaned up. There's no real maintenance programme to make sure it takes place.”

Mr Furbert also took umbrage with comments made by Stevedoring Services that dockworkers were not skilled to do any other kind of work when there were no ships in.

He said: “They are very upset this was said, they say it's very offensive to them.

“I'm sure Peter Aldrich was not always a dock manager but I don't see anyone questioning his expertise.”

Mr Furbert, who worked on the docks for 24 years himself, also responded to claims that he had failed to show up for mediation.

An e-mail from the Labour Relations Department was sent to Mr Aldrich and Mr Furbert, among others, summoning them to a meeting on August 15. It was at this point that the dispute was referred to arbitration

However, Mr Furbert says he was off-island “on family business” that day and replied to say he could not make the meeting. He said he did not send anyone else in his place.

Mr Furbert told the press conference that he had taken this issue up with Labour Relations and said: “Someone owes the BIU an apology.”

He also said he was also upset to see shipping agents had made comments in the press, saying: “I'm not going to accept the agents taking these potshots at our members.”

The union leader said he had called a press conference for the second day in a row to question why the print media hadn't reported exactly what he had said the day before.

He said

The Royal Gazette and Bermuda Sun had “failed to mention” the same three “very important” items, adding that “fair reporting” was needed.

Mr Furbert said both papers should have mentioned that workers were willing to give up a day's pay, the union had been against the closure of the two sheds on Front Street several years ago, and that “no one had complained about delays” when the

Oleander was dry docked for three months and the replacement ship arrived on Monday instead of Sunday.

Mr Furbert said: “Please print what the BIU says, if not I will not have you here at press conferences in the future.”

Mr Furbert added that he knew “information was very important to the public” but said the public could always rely on the Worker's Voice newspaper and the BIU website.

Mr Aldrich, general manager of Stevedoring Services, argued that dock managers had very little non-productive time and there had always been one superintendent and two assistant superintendents.

He said the company had 14 administration staff today, compared to 22 staff in 2006 and savings of between 20-25 percent had been made between 2006 and 2010.

Mr Aldrich said: “We've been through this issue in our negotiations.

“I'm not saying the admin staff have no non-productive time, but they do not have as much as the dockworkers.

“We have whittled down administration staff and have managed to reduce expenses over and over again.”

Mr Aldrich said their own cleaning sweeper no longer worked so they were reliant on renting equipment from Works and Engineering and the Corporation of Hamilton. He said with both their machines also currently out of order, there was “little that could be done.”

He said: “It has created a health and safety issue, it is a valid concern

“The problem has been exacerbated due to the construction work on the new x-ray machine at the docks.”

Mr Aldrich said dockworkers had been invited to take part in a maintenance scheme to help clean up the five-acre site during their non-productive time, but they were “less than responsive” as they “saw it as punishment.”

Mr Aldrich also questioned whether the workers were in contravention of the Labour Relations Act by continuing with their overtime ban when the matter had been referred to arbitration.

He said a third of the dockworkers salary was overtime and he had a “great deal of respect” for the workers and didn't want to see them losing out.

Mr Aldrich said: “He (Mr Furbert) is casting stones, with many things being brought up not even being union issues.

“We are trying very hard to keep our dirty laundry out of the public as we don't see it as being beneficial to the process.

“We are where we are and we are all working hard to try to resolve the issue.”

BIU president Chris Furbert speaking about the ongoing dispute at Hamilton Docks yesterday.

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Published August 25, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated August 25, 2011 at 9:59 am)

BIU boss raises more issues regarding Hamilton Docks

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