7:40PM UPDATE: The Hon Shawn Crockwell J.P., M.P., Minister of Tourism Development and Transport today confirmed that the Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU) Members in the Department of Marine and Ports (M&P) withdrew services at approximately midday and as of 7 p.m. had not returned to work. BIU President Chris Furbert did e-mail a letter to the Minister of Tourism Development and Transport on the morning of Wednesday, March 13, 2013 which was followed up by a hand delivered hard copy that same afternoon. The letter requested M&P Management meet with staff to discuss a number of ongoing issues. The M&P Acting Director arranged a meeting with the Department’s BIU Divisional Officers for this morning at 9.30 a.m. A number of issues were discussed and an agreement made to hold further meetings. At midday staff withdrew services and held a meeting at BIU Headquarters. The BIU requested a further meeting with Ministry officials at 4 p.m. which they attended. Staff have not returned to work and cancellations of service occurred this afternoon and evening.

Concerning the chartering of an overseas ferry, Minister Crockwell said: “The chartering of a ferry to provide additional capacity this summer season will in no way negatively impact the staff of the Department of Marine and Ports. The proposed charter ferry ‘Millennium’ will cost of $1.2 million and will provide substantial savings over the cost of purchasing a new ferry which is approximately $6 million. The Millennium is intended to be used as a dedicated Dockyard to St. George’s service with the vast majority of passengers expected to be from visiting cruise ships, although it will also benefit local passengers. The Millennium, which is intended to be in service for six months, will employ the vessel’s permanent Captain and Engineer, with all other crew being Bermudian, and may require the additional hiring of Bermudians. For the Captain and Engineer to operate the ferry is standard practice so that they can ensure the safety and maintenance of their vessel. It should also be pointed out that the process to find a solution for the Dockyard to St. George’s route, including the chartering of a foreign ferry, was commenced in September, 2012.”

Concerning the BIU’s contention that the chartering of this ferry is in contravention of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and amounts to a privatisation of the service, the Minister added: “The chartering of the Millennium is in no way an attempt to privatise the Sea Express Ferry Service. On the contrary, this vessel will complement and put less strain on the existing fleet and will have zero impact on staffing levels. This initiative was also supported by the Mayor of St. George’s and the President of the BIU M&P Division during a February 7th, 2013 meeting.”

Benefits of leasing an additional ferry boat include increased seasonal capacity to meet the demands generated by the introduction of the Norwegian Breakaway, providing relief for the existing ferry system so that improved maintenance practices can be achieved throughout the season and extending the life span of the existing fleet by operating fewer service hours. There will also be increased ferry service frequency and reliability from Dockyard to Hamilton and from Dockyard to St. George’s, providing backup up support during peak times when ships arrive and depart, enhancing the tourism product by providing more frequent and reliable ferry service and improving the economy of St. George’s by providing additional ferry lift.

Minister Crockwell added: “This solution will allow the regular commuters, some of whom get displaced each Summer due to large numbers of visitors, to know that their service will remain intact even when the cruise season is fully upon us. Likewise, our partners in the cruise industry, the cruise lines, are now confident that their passengers will be able to enjoy the whole of Bermuda from East to West via a dedicated public service. This additional ferry will be a win/win for Bermudians and visitors alike, and the Ministry is proud to bring this innovative solution.”

 


4PM UPDATE: Dept. of Communication & Information: As of 4 p.m. Sea Express Ferry staff have not returned to work. Therefore afternoon and evening commuter services are likely to experience delays. An update will be sent as soon as more information becomes available. 

 


3PM UPDATE: Ferry workers today downed tools over plans to bring in a ship to help with a summer increase in visitors.

 

And the service may not be resumed until tomorrow as Marine & Ports staff pledged to stay off the water until Government explains why the BIU was not consulted before chartering a ferry from overseas to ease pressure on the existing fleet.

Ferry services stopped around 11.30am and workers said they would not leave the BIU HQ venue for a mass meeting until management or Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell explained the decision.

Branding the decision to go ahead without talks with the union “extremely disrespectful” and a breach of the collective bargaining agreement, BIU chief Chris Furbert confirmed that Marine & Ports acting director Scott Simmons had promised to speak to his members.

 


12:30PM: Ferry workers berthed the service’s boats this morning for a meeting at the BIU.

 

The service ground to a halt just after 11:30am as crews made their way to the union HQ in Hamilton for the unscheduled meeting.

No one from the BIU was available for comment this morning, but it expected union chief Chris Furbert will be holding a press conference around 1.30pm to explain the reason for the work stoppage.