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BIU criticises airport ramp workers’ wages

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Airport ramp workers downed tools last week to protest their poverty-level wages, Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert has said.

Some staff at Menzies Aviation, a private company contracted by airlines to provide ground handling services, stopped work on Thursday due to a negotiation dispute over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

On Friday afternoon, the Supreme Court granted an interim injunction banning the employees from taking any further action.

“When people have had enough, they've had enough,” Mr Furbert said at a press conference in the BIU headquarters yesterday.

He pointed out that ramp workers in 2017's top-earning bracket will be paid almost $5 less per hour than they were in 2008 — $17.23 compared to $22.09.

“They're doing the exact same work as they were doing in 2008: offloading bags and cargo at the airport,” he said.

“How can someone have a decent quality of life knowing full well that their wages have gone down (in the past nine years), while everything else has gone up? That's unsustainable.”

Mr Furbert said that he believed Menzies Aviation has been receiving “bad advice” from its representative, the Bermuda Employers Council.

And he chastised BEC head Keith Jensen for acting inappropriately during last week's impasse between the parties.

“Mr Jensen is lucky I wasn't there,” Mr Furbert said, “because if he had barged in the room when I was there and refused to leave, I probably would have thrown him out. He had no business being there.”

He acknowledged that Menzies Aviation had raised workers' hourly wages from 2014-15 rates, when Renaissance Bermuda held the ground handling contract, “They're making an effort to improve it, but not fast enough,” he said.

“These wages certainly cannot stay where they are, they've got to change. The more you put people in poverty, the worse things are going to get.”

Mr Furbert added that, once Menzies Aviation has filed an affidavit in court, the BIU and the workers will respond with their own affidavit.

“Then we'll see where the chips fall,” he said. “Our advice to Menzies, and to any employer, is to come around the table and we'll see if we can negotiate a reasonable agreement.

“We understand the need to make profits, but companies should look at making a little less profit and allowing people to have a reasonable quality of life here in Bermuda.”

Chris Furbert holds up the 2006 Bermuda Aviation Services Collective Agreement handbook at a press conference on Menzies Aviation. (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published June 14, 2016 at 6:49 pm (Updated June 15, 2016 at 8:04 am)

BIU criticises airport ramp workers’ wages

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