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June 2021: Industrial unrest heats up as summer starts

It was a summer of discontent as a row between the Bermuda Industrial Union and the Government over decertification votes in the workplace heated up.

Chris Furbert, the Bermuda Industrial Union president, insisted at the start of the month the union was “not going to back down” in the controversy over allowing non-union members a vote on whether their workplace should have union representation.

The row broke out after the Government implemented a major overhaul of labour legislation at the start of the year – but did not amend decertification rules, which angered the BIU.

The union had insisted that only paid-up union members should get a vote on whether a workplace should cease having union representation.

The Government vowed to allow all workers within a bargaining unit to have a vote.

The impasse continued, and in mid-June the BIU began a week-long work to rule after Mr Furbert said that the two sides had “drawn lines in the sand”.

He asked: “Is this some form of dictatorship by the Government and the minister?”

The action hit the island’s transport services and even delayed the planned arrival of the cruise ship Viking Orion.

The disruption was condemned on both sides of the political divide, as well as business leaders.

But it would not be until the end of the summer, after BIU members went on a two-day strike, that cooler heads prevailed and the dispute was resolved.

June also brought more bad news when the first cases of the Delta variant of the coronavirus were recorded on the island.

David Burt, the Premier, announced earlier in the month that most public safety restrictions would be relaxed as the number of Covid-19 cases dropped to single figures.

But it was confirmed within days that the more virulent Delta strain had found its way to Bermuda.

Ayo Oyinloye, the Chief Medical Officer, said it was clear that “variants of concern are on the island – there’s no argument about that” and Mr Burt said the news was “disappointing”.

The variant would be the cause of a fourth wave of the disease that would see cases skyrocket later in the summer.

There was further tragedy on the roads. Amber Bridges, 16, became the island’s fifth road fatality after her motorcycle was in collision with a van on South Shore Road in Southampton.

Amber’s mother, Heidi Bridges, said her daughter was a shining light who was “wise beyond her years, super sensitive, funny, very mature and switched on. She always wanted to best for everybody”.

In another fatal accident that shocked the public, a car left the scene after a collision with a bike ridden by Ra-Che Williams on Knapton Estate Road in Smith’s.

Mr Williams, 23, died from his injuries. Arrests were made, but no one has been charged in connection with the incident.

Arrests were made following the murder of Quan-Marley Lowe, who was attacked a gang at the junction of Cricket Lane and Scotts Hill Road in Sandys.

Mr Lowe, 33, and a father of two, subsequently died from his injuries.

Collision course: Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union (File photograph)

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Published December 31, 2021 at 7:55 am (Updated December 31, 2021 at 9:49 am)

June 2021: Industrial unrest heats up as summer starts

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