Quarry workers down tools
A Government crackdown on employees using public vehicles for private use resulted in an unofficial walkout by staff at the Government quarry yesterday.
According to a source at the Bailey’s Bay site, more than 100 workers began the industrial action at around 7.30am in support of a suspended colleague.
The source told
The Royal Gazette: “The issue is that the worker got suspended for three weeks because he used a Government vehicle. It was just a small van, a Government van he took home and used overnight.
“They sent a memo down that he was suspended for three weeks. We are not accepting that. He could have just got a warning.
“He’s a good worker, he’s a Christian man, he makes his time. He is one of the best mechanics down there.”
The source, who did not wish to be named, said “100-plus men” had downed tools and would not pick them up again until the worker was taken off suspension.
“It goes against our union agreement,” he said, adding that the disciplinary action was unnecessarily punitive.
“This affects the whole Island. No trucks are moving. You’ve got to realise we have a few projects going on. Paget corner — that’s come to a halt — and a few other things we have got going on around the Island. Once the trucks don’t move, nobody gets supplies.”
The man, speaking yesterday morning, said management had yet to come out to speak to the workers.
But last night a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Works, which runs the facility, confirmed that approximately 75 percent of the workforce had taken action “in support of a colleague who had been suspended for the unauthorised use of a Government vehicle”.
“The Ministry had previously circulated an internal memorandum to the workforce at the quarry in March which stated that the use of Government vehicles was for the ‘express purpose of doing Bermuda Government business only’,” the spokesman said.
“The Ministry cannot condone the unauthorised use of Government vehicles and is particularly concerned that such an action could result in a lack of insurance cover had an incident taken place.
“The Ministry initially proposed to suspend the worker for three weeks but after the initiation of a grievance process on Tuesday, June 11, the Ministry took into consideration the employee’s good record and reduced the suspension to one week.
“Despite the grievance process already having commenced, workers downed tools first thing on Wednesday morning in support of their colleague, violating the grievance procedure laid out in the Bermuda Industrial Union collective bargaining agreement.
“The Ministry does not accept this action as it is not in accordance with the proper grievance procedure and requests that all workers return to work and allow the proper process to be followed. ”
Last night Shadow Public Works Minister Derrick Burgess accused Government of being heavy-handed over the incident, and suggested that the One Bermuda Alliance was unfamiliar with dealing with labour disputes.
And the former Bermuda Industrial Union president said that “playing hardball” would not bode well for future labour relations, at a time when Government is in talks with unions over pay cuts for employees.
“I really do think the Government acted very heavy-handedly in this matter,” Mr Burgess said.
“When it comes to greivences, each case has to be taken on its own merits and each case has to be handled in a different way depending on the circumstances of the individual concerned, their length of service and so on.
“In this particular instance, the worker has been an excellent employee and, from what I understand, he only used the vehicle so that he could get home because of a lack of buses. He drove the vehicle straight back to work the following morning and told his boss what he had done straight away. There didn’t appear to be a serious problem and then, a few days later, he’s suddenly told he’s suspended for three weeks. That can’t be right.
“I think what this does show is that this Government does not understand how labour relations work, and clearly they are not prepared to learn. ”