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Call for union’s falling finances to be explained

Community activist Raymond Russell yesterday called for more information on how Bermuda Industrial Union’s cash in the bank plummeted from more than $1.5 million to $75,000 in five years.

Mr Russell, a long-time critic of the BIU, also questioned what happened to $3.18 million which appeared to be lost from the BIU’s wholly-owned subsidiary Union Asset Holdings during 200⅞.

And he warned the members will ultimately suffer if the union’s $663,000 deficit from 2008/9 is frequently repeated in subsequent years.

He was speaking after the union’s audited financial statements, released on Monday after months of accusations of unaccountability, showed its total assets fell from $11.85 million in 2006/7 to $8.11 million in 2008/9, the most up-to-date statement filed.

Much of the union’s assets are in property, with $4.44 million in offices and buildings, $765,000 in land, $2.57 million in other assets as well as the $75,000 in the bank.

One Bermuda Alliance Senator Michael Fahy says union members have been approaching him concerned there’s not enough money in the coffers to pay them if they’re forced into strike action this year.

Reflecting on the newly released statements, Mr Russell said yesterday: “There’s no information here.

“Of course, the union should come out and say how they got to $75,000 cash in the bank. Where did the $3 million go [from Union Asset Holdings]?

“If they are short of $600,000 in the last year they filed, they aren’t going to right that. They will be short again the next year.

“If it continues there will be less and less money, and the members will have problems. They should be looking after the membership.”

The union’s financial statements for 2000 to 2009 show cash in the bank was it highest point of $1.96 million on September 30, 2002.

In 2004, the figure was $1.58 million; in 2005 it was $1.39 million; in 2006 it had fallen to $475,000; in 2007, it was $338,000; in 2008, $89,750; in 2009, $75,153.

BIU president Chris Furbert has said the financial statement for 2009/10 will be filed soon, bringing it into line with the Trade Union Act 1965. He has described the union’s financial shape as good.

Mr Russell has been a thorn in the BIU’s side for decades, arguing vast amounts of cash are spent on high salaries for union staff while workers miss out on sick benefit.

Yesterday, he said he felt tired of waging a one-man campaign, complaining that politicians have failed to hold the union to account.

“The Opposition party should be doing their job properly. I’m tired of it,” he said.

“There are 36 Members of Parliament. People keep saying we have a Government, they should be dealing with this. This is important to the Country.”

Mr Furbert did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Community activist Raymond Russell wants the Bermuda Industrial Union to give details about how its cash in the bank fell from $1.5m to $75,000 over the course of five years.

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Published November 16, 2011 at 8:57 am (Updated November 16, 2011 at 8:56 am)

Call for union’s falling finances to be explained

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