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BIU threaten hospital industrial action, postal workers down tools

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Possible industrial action could be taken by unionised Nurses Auxiliary workers at the hospital unless a dormant pay rise is acted upon, according to union leader Chris Furbert. Pointing to annual profits of $18 million in Bermuda Hospitals Board financial statements over the last two years, Bermuda Industrial Union president Mr Furbert said an arbitration award given this month to the BHB was “inhumane”. “This goes back to when arbitration began on November 29 for a hospital workers’ Collective Bargaining Agreement,” Mr Furbert said. The BIU had asked for a $35 a week wage increase for workers — an increase of about 3.5 percent. However, BHB requested, and was awarded, a wage freeze instead. The award is binding to both parties, Mr Furbert added, but the BIU nonetheless retains the right to act upon the $12 a week Nursing Auxiliary raise that had been negotiated for 2009 to 2010, as well as 2010 to 2011, which he said hasn’t yet come into effect. Nursing Auxiliary staff are assistants to registered nurses. Following a meeting last night, he said, the union decided that BHB have “48 hours to reinstate the $12 wage increase”. “If not, those 120-odd staff will take some form of industrial action,” Mr Furbert said, stressing that the latest action was based upon negotiations made prior to the latest arbitration. Mr Furbert also revealed this morning that the BIU’s postal workers division have also downed tools for today. That action based on the case of a postal worker who was dismissed from his job in 2011, under accusations of fraud and deception, which were ultimately cleared by the Island’s courts. “He was exonerated of all charges around October of last year,” Mr Furbert said. “The BIU would like to have him reinstated. The management are saying that’s not going to happen.” Mr Furbert said postal management wanted the matter to be settled in arbitration, but the union maintains the courts have already cleared the worker’s name. “We will not go to arbitration,” he said. “The courts have already decided on this, so we’re not going backwards.” Trust in the arbitration process is “slowly, slowly dwindling from the BIU’s perspective”, Mr Furbert added. Postal workers have downed tools for today, the union head said, but will return to work on Monday, with the understanding that the BIU is to settle upon a time for a meeting of its members to decided the next course of action. Meanwhile, the Trade Union Congress is holding a meeting this afternoon, to discuss the implications of Government’s decision to dispense with term limits for work permit holders.

BIU President Chris Furbert held a press conference to inform media on two ongoing disputes, the Post Office workers downing tools and the KEMH pay increase dispute. Photo David Skinner