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Rift between union and PLP widens

Defending the party: Lawrence Scott, the minister of transport (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

A rift between the ruling Progressive Labour Party and the Bermuda Industrial Union widened yesterday after the BIU president accused the Government of a failure to listen to its grassroots support.

Chris Furbert said the two had always been natural political allies – but that talks had to be held to heal the breach.

The row broke out last December after the Government passed new labour legislation – but failed to scrap a law on union decertification.

Union leaders had several meetings with the Government over the next six months in an attempt to get the law amended.

When the laws came into force in July – without any change – Mr Furbert called for the resignation of David Burt, the Premier, and Minister of Labour Jason Hayward.

Mr Furbert questioned the actions of the PLP leadership and highlighted the bus dispute which has brought the service to a standstill.

He said: “We have a difference of opinion right now.”

Mr Furbert added that he was he was disappointed that a Progressive Labour Party government had employed “scab labour” – private minibuses to cover the service – when unionised workers were going without pay.

He said: “I do not see how the Government can stand where they are and keeping saying ‘we’re for labour’.

“Stop saying you are for labour when you are bringing in scab labour to do our members’ work.”

Mr Furbert also accused the Government of being “on the same path” as the former One Bermuda Alliance government, which was in office between 2012 and 2017.

He said: “I wouldn’t say we feel betrayed, but the Government has to remember … you’re listening, but you’re not hearing what we’re saying.

Mr Furbert added: “Now it’s dog eat dog. How do you justify that? In another country, things would be happening. This is wrong.”

“It’s the leadership that we’re going to have a conversation about – not the party.”

Mr Furbert appealed for an end to the industrial dispute.

He said: ”Let’s press the pause button and see how we can fix the family.“

Lawrence Scott, the transport minister, denied that the Government had lost touch with its base.

He said: “This Government has a long history of support for the labour movement in Bermuda.

“The support of the Bermudian workforce and recognition of the fundamental rights of all workers has not changed.

“However, as government, we must act to deliver expected public services.

“The Government has drafted, introduced and passed laws that protect labour rights, its workers and the movement.”

Mr Scott added it was “disappointing” that Mr Furbert had criticised the Government.

He said: “This Government will always supported labour. We have drafted, introduced and passed legislation that enhances the labour movement.

“We’re not departing from our roots but we must hold each other accountable.

“Am I my brother’s keeper? yes, I am and so, therefore, we have to make sure we follow the necessary policies and necessary procedures so that things are done correctly, right and as safe as possible.”

But Mr Scott insisted: “The fact that we’re a labour government and support labour is one thing.

“But we cannot support as government an unlawful work stoppage.

“Today, we remain committed to working on resolving the current impasse.”

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Published September 28, 2021 at 7:59 am (Updated September 28, 2021 at 7:59 am)

Rift between union and PLP widens

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