Letter from BIU president Chris Furbert to Senator Michael Fahy:

 

 

The Hon. Senator Michael Fahy, JP

Minister of Home Affairs

Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building

58 Court Street

Hamilton HM 12

Telephone: (441) 292-0044

Fax: (441 )295-7992.

E-Mail: biu@biu.bm

February 21, 2014

Dear Minister Fahy,

By way of background to this dispute I refer to the letter that was sent to the Minister of Tourism Development and Transport on December 19, 2013 which is entitled Re: Outstanding Staff Issues at M&P. (Please refer to copy sent to you earlier.).

On Wednesday February 19,2014 a divisional meeting was held at the BIU of the Marine & Ports Division where the workers made a decision that they were downing tools at the end of that day.

This decision was communicated to the Minister of Tourism Development and Transport and the Permanent Secretary via an email from Ms. Laverne Furbert, Secretary to the Executives of the BIU.

I received a telephone call in response to that email from the Permanent Secretary Mr. Francis Richardson requesting a meeting to discuss the situation. We agreed to meet at 5:00PM.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, February 19, 2014, upon receipt of our e-mail to Minister Crockwell which was copied to the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Francis Richardson, Mr. Richardson called me informing me that he would be willing to meet with me at 5 :00 p.m. in the hope of avoiding industrial action by members of the Marine & Ports Division. We agreed to meet with him. Shortly before 5:00 p.m. I received another telephone call from Mr. Richardson informing me that the Minister would be seeking an ex parte injunction related to the essential services within the Department of Marine & Ports.

This was confirmed in writing via e-mail from Mr. Richardson. During our telephone conversation, I informed Mr. Richardson that as an injunction would be served, it made little sense meeting to discuss the matter. The Director of Work Force Development, Mr. George Outerbridge and Labour Relations Officer, Ms. Gabriella Stewart asked if they could attend the meeting. Permission was granted. They were both at BIU HQ, when Mr. Richardson called.

I received a telephone call from Mr. Edward Ball the General Secretary of the Bermuda Public Service Union asking if he could assist in this matter. He asked me would I be willing to attend a meeting on Thursday February 20, 2014 at 10:00AM with PS of Home Affairs Mr. Randy Rochester, PS of Transport Mr. Francis Richardson and representatives from the Department of Workforce Force Development. I said yes provided that the Minister withheld serving the injunction until after the meeting.

Mr. Ball said he would get back to me. He called me back a few minutes later to say the Minister agreed to withhold serving the injunction.

I found out a little later that day the Minister had already served the injunction the night before on February 19, 2014 via email upon Ms. Laverne Furbert Secretary to the Executives of the BIU.

As an act of good faith we still attended the meeting at which we were told the injunction had been served on the Union. I asked on whom did they serve the injunction because they did not serve it on me the BIU President.

Please be advised that at no time after the workers at Marine & Ports gave notice that they were downing tools, have they refused to do anything that falls under the Labour Relations Act 1975, First Schedule - Essential Services (6) - Port and dock services including pilotage, tug and line boat operation (not connected with cruise ships).

In fact on February 20, 2014, the members made a motion that they would continue to do everything that falls under the Labour Relations Act 1975, First Schedule No.6. For example, yesterday they worked in accordance with the Essential Service Schedule were they took the Pilot out to a ship and today, February 21,2014 the Tug and Lines handling took place.

At a meeting of the Marine & Ports Division of the Bermuda Industrial Union (BlU) held on Thursday, February 20, 2014, the members of the Division were informed that an injunction had been served on the BIU requiring members of the Marine & Ports Division to return to work immediately and resolve the outstanding dispute(s) by binding arbitration. The executive of the BIU repeatedly informed members of the Marine & Ports Division of the legal affect of the injunction and the obligations they were now under as a result of the Injunction being served upon the Union. In response to questions from the floor, I informed the workers of the legal sanctions which could result from failure to comply with the injunction and advised the workers that as a matter of law they must now return to work.

Candidly the workers were neither happy nor satisfied with what I told them. They vociferously responded to me by saying arbitration has done nothing to resolve this dispute over the last three years. I also need to let you know there was a lot of anger in the room regarding how the workers believe they are being handled by government. The members of the Marine & Ports Division, after considering what the BIU President said to them, unanimously voted that the matter should not have been referred to arbitration.

Further be be advised, that the workers at the Parks Department where given permission to hold a Divisional meeting on February 20, 2014 and at that meeting they decided to down tools today, Friday, February 21, 2014 because their outstanding matters have not been addressed.

During the last three years, the two divisions have made numerous complaints, both in writing and verbally to various Ministers , Permanent Secretaries and Management. Additionally they have voiced their concerns in Joint Consultation Committee (ICC) meetings regarding the way these two departments are being managed. They are therefore requesting that a Board of Inquiry be set up to investigate the "Mismanagement" at the Department of Marine & Ports and the Department of Parks.

As a result of the decision taken by the members of the Marine & Ports division it is the opinion of the Executive Board of the Bermuda Industrial Union that these matters should be resolved by a Board of Enquiry

cc: The Hon. Shawn Crockwell, JP, MP

Minister of Tourism Development and Transport

Mr. George Outerbridge, Director

Department of Workforce Development

All news media

 

Yours truly, Chris Furbert, JP President

 

 


The Ministry of Public Works confirmed that there has been an interruption to services today as a result of an irregular industrial action by Department of Parks staff.

Areas affected primarily involved Parks employees working out of the Marsh Folly Facility. It is understood however, that some staff members remained on duty.

The Ministry advised that discussions are underway between representatives from the Department of Workforce Development and the Bermuda Industrial Union to seek a resolution. The Department of Parks is also willing to continue discussions with the Union.

As it relates to Ministers of the Government being involved in dispute mediation the Government wishes to clarify that there will be no direct involvement or action taken by any Government Minister in the discussions surrounding the dispute as Ministers do not have authority or responsibility for staffing issues.  Such matters are the responsibility of the Public Service. 

Government also clarified that  those workers who engaged in today’s irregular industrial action will not be paid for the work hours missed – this is in keeping with Government’s “No Work; No Pay” Policy.

Meanwhile the Minister of Home Affairs, Sen. the Hon. Michael Fahy, who has already had to address the industrial action this week regarding the Department of Marine and Ports, assured the public that he is monitoring today’s developments closely.

Minister Fahy said, “Today’s actions are regrettable, as there should have been adequate notice given to management about any proposed industrial action. We’re hoping that we can resolve this matter as soon as possible to avoid any further disruption of service.”