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Furbert warning over ferry jobs

BIU president Chris Furbert

“Outsourcing” of ferry jobs is among the issues to be discussed at this morning’s union meeting, with Bermuda Industrial Union head Chris Furbert warning it will be “game on” if members’ jobs are threatened.

However, Senator Michael Fahy, the Minister of Tourism, Transport and Municipalities, said yesterday that criticism of the deal, in which two ferries will run between Dockyard and St George’s for Norwegian Cruise Lines, amounted to “misinformation”.

The building of two catamarans by NCL is part of an arrangement with the cruise line to boost visitor numbers for St George’s, and will include a minimum of 12 cruise ship calls annually for five years at the East End. “These ferries will be used exclusively to move NCL passengers between Dockyard and St George’s — they are not for members of the public,” Mr Fahy told The Royal Gazette.

“This is an amazing opportunity for the Old Towne and will increase economic activity. The operation is not in any way privatisation of the operations of Marine and Ports.”

The minister spoke in the wake of a BIU special general council meeting on Friday, in which Mr Furbert responded to news that local mariner Beau Evans had won the bid to operate the catamarans.

Mr Evans will operate the ferries with Bermudian staff, as of July, under the company name of Cruiseport Ferry Management. However, Mr Furbert said the union had met twice with Mr Fahy, asking for the Government to put in its own bid.

“So if Mr Evans is going to put a bid in, let’s say for $100,000, the Government can put a bid in to run it for $75,000, and run those two ferries, because right now you’re privatising my members’ work,” Mr Furbert said.

“True, we have the Millennium ferry bought in, and we have four Bermudians working on that ferry. And the Government has paid for that. Remember now, it’s all a farce because that Millennium ferry was bought here to upgrade our fleet, which hasn’t happened. It’s a sham, been a sham from day one.”

The union head contended that half of the island’s six fast ferries were out of service.

“For the minister now to say that it’s now going to be given to Mr Beau Evans to operate ... I’m tell you we’re going to have real problems. Because if one of the BIU members either gets laid off or loses their job because of those ferries doing their work? Game on. Game on.”

But Mr Fahy called it “absurd” to suggest that Marine and Ports jobs were being privatised.

“In fact, as had been reported already, the NCL operations contract has been awarded to a Bermudian through an open and transparent RFP process and the operator has already advised that all staff will be Bermudians,” Mr Fahy said. “How this can be criticised is beyond me.

“No amount of misinformation being expressed by others can take away from these facts. Such misinformation does a disservice to the tourism industry and disrespects the operator and his Bermudian staff.

“We look forward to the arrival of the catamarans and look forward to working with Mr Evans and indeed Marine and Ports — who will continue to service the public.”

He said the bus operators’ action amounted to a “breach of employment contracts”.

“I am profoundly disappointed that the Bus Drivers and Allied Workers Division of the Bermuda Industrial Union advised Public Transportation Board management that there would be no buses operating from 8am on Tuesday, January 3.

“No time for recommencement of service was given. This advisory does not fulfil the terms of the collective bargaining agreement in place and moreover the issues to be discussed do not relate to labour issues.

“Disruption of public transportation services is totally irresponsible, especially since many schools open on the very day of the meeting being called. The timing is obviously designed to cause maximum disruption.

“Taking unauthorised leave of absence is wrong and is a breach of employment contracts. The public expects more and is entitled to do so.

“Those calling for such disruption should be ashamed of themselves. I urge the union members to think about their public duty and reconsider their position to enable workers to get to work and students to get to school.

“I encourage members of the public to help your neighbour and car pool and for all other public service vehicles to be on the road to help service the public when they need it most.”