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Fahy and union clash over consulations

Government and the Bermuda Industrial Union appear to be at loggerheads over whether an agreement had been reached to make public transport an essential service.

On Tuesday, Labour Minister Michael Fahy, who has had regular meetings with union bosses since taking over the Ministry, said that the BIU agreed to classify transport as an essential industry two weeks ago during a meeting of the Labour Advisory Council.

Senator Fahy justified the move by claiming that wildcat actions in recent weeks had damaged the Island's reputation as a tourist destination and caused and caused “irreparable harm to Bermuda's economy”.

At yesterday's protest march, Premier Craig Cannonier also insisted that Government was willing to listen to worker concerns before moving ahead with the legislation, which is set to be debated in the House of Assembly on Friday.

“I've said from day one that we're here to collaborate — I want to find out what the real issues are,” Mr Cannonier told around 200 protesting transport workers.

“And so we're looking for a way forward for everyone. This is not for any special interest group or to leave anyone out, this is about all of us moving forward with this thing.

“And so I will be speaking to the Minister, Minister Fahy, about this concern and then we will go from there, but I do need to hear what the concerns are.”

But Deputy Opposition leader Derrick Burgess dismissed those claims, telling workers: “Let me say this here. You heard [Labour Minister] Fahy on the TV last night, he said he consulted with the union. Rubbish. All this Government does, they say one thing and do another.”

And BIU president Chris Furbert also denied that the union had given the go-ahead for transport to be reclassified as essential.

“When the Minister talks about that we've had dialogue, we've had three conversations, maybe four, about making public transportation an essential service, in the last four months or five months.

“Every time the Minister has came with that approach, the BIU says we're not sure that's the correct way to go.

“The last time we spoke he said maybe we'll consider making public transportation an essential industry, as opposed to an essential service.

“The Minister did say in the paper today that he also talked to the LAC.

“The LAC didn't give them no commitment whatsoever about whether he could go ahead and put legislation forward to make public transportation an essential service. I was in the meeting. I didn't hear a green light.

“So when we talk about dialogue, we have no problem sitting around having dialogue about moving the country forward and making sure we are all critical stakeholders, without being disrespected.

“The OBA is the Government of the day. Nobody is trying to take that away. You are the government, we have to respect that you're the Government of the day, but you simply cannot, you cannot, disrespect the workers of this country.”

Mr Furbert then repeated claims that the amendment would be a backward step that went against international labour laws.

“We're concerned about that because we believe that's taking away workers' rights as it relates to their right to strike, their right to withdraw their labour because they're not satisfied with something that's taking place,” he said.

“That has to be an international right, to do that. That's my labour, that we're talking about.

“I have the right to down my tools because I'm not satisfied with something that someone's done to me. You can't take that right away from me. If you take that right away from me, it looks like we're going back to slavery.

“We can't guarantee you that every time, if we tell you it's going to take 24 hours or 48 hours, it's going to happen.

“Under normal circumstances, maybe it can. But if something happens out of the ordinary, then it's going to happen immediately.

“It can't happen no other way. Why? Because when something happens, like happened the other day where the employer violates the agreement and we tell them they're violating the agreement, I don't know of any union in the world that says ‘we're striking just for the sake of striking'.

“We've been round the bartering table for a week, a month, three months or six months, we've had enough that now we've decided to take progressive industrial action. That's the way how all unions operate, that's the way how the BIU operates, no different.”

Glenn Simmons 2nd vice president of the BIU signals to a worker to calm down outside of the House of Assembly during a march by public transport workers. (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published March 06, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated March 05, 2014 at 10:30 pm)

Fahy and union clash over consulations

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