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Bus drivers demand pay for time off to get Covid-19 tests

Out of action: Bus services have been called off due to a dispute over Covid-19 safety concerns (File photograph)

Buses are expected to remain off the roads for a second day today after a dispute between drivers and public transport managers remained deadlocked.

Services were initially suspended last Friday afternoon to allow operators to take time off work to get tested for the Covid-19 virus. The temporary suspension was granted after four drivers tested positive for the virus.

Services resumed on Sunday once staff had received their test results.

But drivers walked off the job late on Monday after being told that they would not get paid for any time they had taken off to get tested.

In a statement on Monday night, Government confirmed that services would be called off today. The statement gave no reason for the suspension or how long it would last.

But yesterday, Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, confirmed reports that drivers had downed tools.

Mr Furbert added that the action had been taken after drivers were informed they were not entitled to get paid when absent for Covid-19 testing.

He said: “Our members are in a very serious situation.

“They are performing an essential service and putting themselves at risk in order to do their jobs.

“In light of the current situation they felt it necessary they get tested, and that was agreed.”

Mr Furbert declared that the incident was another example of discrimination against blue-collar workers.

“When a case of Covid-19 breaks out in a school, that school shuts down and teachers are no longer working, yet they still get paid,” he said. “So why is it different for bus drivers?”

Mr Furbert said that drivers needed to get tested to make sure they were not passing on the virus to members of the public and their families.

“And yet they get punished for that,” he said.

Mr Furbert said that the BIU had been in contact with Department of Public Transport staff during the day – but that as of tonight, no resolution had been reached.

“I’m hoping to hear back from them in the hope that they’ve changed their position,” he said. “But if not, this could go on into tomorrow.”

Earlier yesterday a Government spokeswoman said that further information about the dispute would be released “soon”.

In a statement last night, the spokeswoman said: “Discussions are underway between the Ministry and the union regarding the testing of bus drivers last week and them not returning to work.”

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Published April 14, 2021 at 8:09 am (Updated April 14, 2021 at 8:09 am)

Bus drivers demand pay for time off to get Covid-19 tests

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