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Bus strike to continue today after talks deadlock

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

A strike by bus service staff will continue today, the Government confirmed last night.

Lawrence Scott, the transport minister, said that Department of Public Transportation managers had met Bermuda Industrial Union officials yesterday but had been unable to thrash out a resolution.

Industrial action was launched yesterday by public transport staff after they claimed that a winter roster – scheduled to come into effect today – was not posted by the DPT.

Mr Scott denied the claim and insisted that Government had “met its obligation”.

But he said that, under the new schedule, “alternative options and resources” rather than public buses would be used to cover school routes when the new term started on September 9 – which had sparked the dispute.

He added the change would not mean a reduction in hours for bus staff and that the BIU was told of the schedule two months ago.

Mr Scott said: “There is a labour dispute between the Department of Public Transportation and the Bermuda Industrial Union’s Bus Division over the end of summer “pick of work” in preparation for the start of school on September 9 which is due to commence today, Monday, August 16, in accordance with schedule 10 of the collective bargaining agreement between the Government of Bermuda and the Bermuda Industrial Union.

“The Government has met its obligation under Schedule 10 of the agreement.

“We aim to deliver reliable and consistent public bus service for commuters.

“The proposed schedule ensures no redundancy, no loss of work hours for the operators and greater flexibility for the operators, while simultaneously the community enjoys reliable, consistent bus service with little to no cancellations.

Mr Scott said the two sides had met yesterday but hit an “impasse”.

He added: “The matter is currently with the Ministry of Labour.

“We anticipate that the disruption in the bus service will continue tomorrow morning and recommend for commuters to use alternative transportation.

Roger Todd, the DPT director, highlighted that a similar situation arose last year when services had to be cut.

Mr Todd said: “Traditionally, at the end of summer we would pick the winter rosters which include the public bus schedule plus the school bus schedule.

“However, because of the resource shortages within the department vis-à-vis buses and operators, we recognise and have demonstrated throughout last year that we have insufficient resources to reliably and consistently meet both the public bus and the school bus schedule.

“Therefore, the ministry has elected to organise and focus the DPT resources around providing a reliable public bus schedule while seeking alternative solutions for the provision of the school bus schedule.

“This is no different from where we were last year this time.“

Mr Scott said the changes would not mean less work for bus service staff.

He added: “There is no reduction in hours, no redundancy. Bus operators will be working the same amount of hours, if not more, with this summer schedule.”

Mr Scott said that the BIU had been given adequate notice that the new roster would be introduced.

“I met with the president of BIU in January of this year and the director met with BIU executive in February of this year to discuss this matter.

“I mentioned this in the House of Assembly in March during the Budget debate, and we have recently spoken to the unions about this in a general meeting in June,” said Mr Scott.

“This is not something that has just come out of the blue and so I believe that most of your questions would be better suited to the president of the BIU.”

The Minister declined to discuss how school services would be covered.

“I don’t think this is the best time to discuss what the resources are. We are going to be ready to have a dedicated service for our students come September.”

The BIU did not respond to a request for comment but will hold a press conference this morning.

The Opposition said that the action showed that the Progressive Labour Party government was “out of touch with labour”.

Jarion Richardson, the shadow transport minister, said: “Yet again, going about our lives is being ransomed while our jobs are put at risk. It’s as if own goals is the strategy.

“Someone, whether it’s the government or labour, needs to get a grip on our labour relations.

“Either that, or the public will finally decide that it’s better to get reliable service through privatisation rather a protected labour force – and that slippery slope will have long lasting changes to Bermuda from which there is little chance of going back.”

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Published August 17, 2021 at 8:16 am (Updated August 17, 2021 at 10:10 am)

Bus strike to continue today after talks deadlock

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