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‘We don’t need union to lead us’

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Protesters Dorian Hurdle and Francis Breary (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)

A handful of protesters turned up at the House of Assembly yesterday to make their own stand against the airport Bill, with one saying they didn’t need the union to lead them as if “we have got a ring in our nose”.

The majority of those making a peaceful demonstration against two airport Bills that were scheduled to be debated in Parliament were retired seniors. They told The Royal Gazette they decided to make a stand despite Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert calling off an official union protest following a lack of support. Francis Breary, retiree and former manager at Hamilton Princess Hotel, told The Royal Gazette: “The people here are the older generation — we fought to make this country what it is. We know what it is to protest, it is the only power we have.

“We are here to let the people in the House know that there are still concerned people. We are all individuals. When the union is doing something, let’s not figure they are leading us around like we have got a ring in our nose.”

Ross Furbert, a former government employee in the Department of Health and BIU supporter, felt the same way, telling this newspaper: “People have been riding on the back of the BIU members but it is time for the people to stand up. The union has done as much as it can. I don’t blame him [Chris Furbert].”

Mr Furbert not only lost the support of his members over yesterday’s protest — he also suffered a backlash over his threat to derail the 35th America’s Cup.

Both Mr Furbert and Ms Breary said that it was not up to them to decide whether Chris Furbert was the best man for the job and such a decision was up to the members.

Ms Breary said: “I can imagine how Chris Furbert feels — like the door has been slammed in his face and he feels belittled.

“He is in a strong position but the people feel that it is useless. Government has set out to do it and so they are up against a brick wall. Chris Furbert is only one man — he has proved he can be level-headed.”

Ross Furbert added: “He has served the union well. Only members can decide — this is a democracy.”

Asked why they believed more people had not supported the protest, both felt that the people had given up hope that they could make a change.

“The people feel defeated after the Blue Ribbon [panel which this week endorsed the airport deal],” Ms Breary said. “I expected Blue Ribbon to endorse what they endorsed — they had no objections from day one.”

Ross Furbert said: “People are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Some people said to me what’s the use, they are going to do what they want to do anyway — 18 people are going to tell us it [the airport] is the best deal. I am tired but I have to persevere for my grandchildren.

“The Government has a false sense of security but it is going to come back and bite them. They have to learn to listen to the people.”

Ms Breary said she had hope that a better relationship could be nurtured between the union and employers, making reference to successes in Hamilton’s docks.

“Since Mr [Warren] Jones has been there he has been willing to make a change; to make things better and has collaborated with the union.

“There is criteria for training and more modern equipment. It has been turned around and they have a good morale and pride. Happy cows give good milk.”

•On occasion The Royal Gazette may decide to not allow comments on what we consider to be a controversial or contentious story. As we are legally liable for any slanderous or defamatory comments made on our website, this move is for our protection as well as that of our readers.

Protester Ross Furbert (Photograph by Sarah Lagan)