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Furbert – ‘all Hell broke loose’ after BPSU declined bus deal

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Chris Furbert, BIU president, speaks at a press conference (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The leader of the Bermuda Industrial Union said a dispute between bus drivers and the Government has been resolved, despite the matter being sent to arbitration.

Chris Furbert, BIU president, said yesterday that the union ratified an agreement with the Government on Thursday morning, but objections from the Bermuda Public Service Union that afternoon had thrown the situation into chaos.

“I’m not sure how everything went off the rails, but it would appear all Hell broke loose yesterday,” he said. “I have to describe it like that because it’s exactly what happened.

“The Minister said to us that the agreement that was reached by us had to be terminated. I said the agreement was ratified by the membership, and I’m sorry but you can’t terminate it.”

Mr Furbert said that while the BPSU supervisors may disagree with the proposal, the two unions have separate agreements with the Government.

He added: “This issue on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was about an impasse between the BIU and the management team at DPT.

“Respectfully, it had nothing to do with the supervisors.”

Mr Furbert said that at no point on Wednesday night was the union told that the agreement would need to be approved by the BPSU.

He said: “If that was their intention and they knew it had to be done and they dropped the ball, you can’t blame the BPSU for that and you can’t blame BIU for that.”

Bus services halted on Monday morning as a result of the dispute over Government’s decision to return to the winter roster.

Lawrence Scott, the Minister of Transport, said the move would reduce cancellations and improve the consistency of the bus service.

But the BIU said the move went against a collective bargaining agreement and would not address the shortage of buses and staff that caused cancellations.

Mr Furbert said the BIU and the Ministry reached an agreement in principle on Wednesday evening and the proposal was ratified by the membership on Thursday morning.

He said shortly afterwards Mr Scott told him the deal was off the table because of opposition from the Bermuda Public Services Union.

But he said he spoke to Mr Scott again yesterday evening, at which time Mr Scott said the Government would abide by the ratified agreement.

Mr Furbert said the ratified agreement allowed bus operators to select their winter rosters as of August 23 while a team of senior operators would work on proposed improvements to the summer schedule that would make it more palatable for drivers.

“We also agreed that on October 13, if we have no agreement on any revisions to the summer rosters, then we will revert back to the summer rosters until March 31,” he said.

“Initially the minister wanted to have these rosters until September 2022, but he rolled it back to the end of March.”

Mr Furbert added that while the Government had said the work stoppage fell into the category of its “no work, no pay” policy, discussions had also included some pay for the operators for the period.

Bus services across the island were halted for four days from Monday as a result of the dispute, with service restarting this morning.

A spokeswoman for the BPSU said they had met late Thursday afternoon with the BIU after speaking with DPT upper management.

She said: “It is apparent the matter of the bus rosters will require continued dialogue with the Minister.

“The BPSU is committed to working alongside our sister union for the betterment of the service.

“DPT Supervisors remain on post and will continue to ensure dispatch is readily available for operation.”

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Published August 21, 2021 at 7:41 am (Updated August 21, 2021 at 7:41 am)

Furbert – ‘all Hell broke loose’ after BPSU declined bus deal

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