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Docks action is having an impact

As the overtime ban for workers at the Hamilton Docks simmers on, food distributors confirmed that delays are having an impact on their operations.MV Oleander.Oleander had been dry-docked for several weeks earlier this year.

Although Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert on Tuesday said the inconvenience has been “totally exaggerated”, one distributor who asked not to be named said: “It has caused a problem for us, because it’s meant that our Sunday night crew can’t work. Our work standards are being compromised.”

A spokesman for Butterfield and Vallis distributors said: “It’s not fictitious. Containers are coming in behind schedule.

“Fortunately, because of the shipping schedule, last week the problem has not been as obvious. But this week on Monday morning, we got produce that’s normally arriving at 7am that we didn’t get until 2pm or 3pm, and that means we have to pay overtime.”

Speaking yesterday afternoon, he added: “Normally by now, we would have cleared all last week’s containers. We haven’t.”

He added: “I wouldn’t say it’s a crisis, but it’s certainly being felt. The overtime costs on our end have the potential to lead to some degree of inflation.”

Asked if supermarkets were seeing empty shelves, he replied: “The answer would be a guarded ‘yes’. But by hours, not weeks or days. It’s like coming in from the heat and turning on the air conditioning. You don’t like to wait. It’s being felt, and it will be felt more if the union decides to turn up the heat.”

A distributor representative said the labour dispute had only become an issue for perishable goods.

“Stores are getting them around lunchtime instead of having them early Monday,” he said.

“I haven’t seen any shelves that have gone completely empty, but with the produce, that’s where the holes are,” he said. “Lettuce wilts and tomatoes go bad. That’s where it can be an issue. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.”

The overtime ban at the docks chiefly affects the Sunday afternoon arrival of the Bermuda Container Line vessel, the

Defending the dockworkers, Mr Furbert on Tuesday pointed out that the

During maintenance work to extend the working life of the vessel, an alternate ship had to be used, which reached the Island on Monday mornings.

The Butterfield and Vallis spokesman said: “I see what Mr Furbert meant. He was pointing this out and saying, ‘What’s the big deal?’

“But the norm for us is that we have the perishables coming off the ship on Sunday evenings. So it is certainly being felt.”

Work gets on the way at the Hamilton Docks last Monday morning as trucks were lined up to be loaded and unloaded with hundreds of containers that would have been originally moved off the docks on Sunday night. ( Photo by Glenn Tucker )

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Published August 25, 2011 at 10:01 am (Updated August 25, 2011 at 10:01 am)

Docks action is having an impact

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