Upset: Union supporters at a protest outside KFC earlier this year. *File photo
Upset: Union supporters at a protest outside KFC earlier this year. *File photo

FRIDAY, APRIL 13: A boycott of KFC was yesterday called for in a long-running dispute over the axing of a union bargaining agreement.

The move came from BIU chief Chris Furbert after KFC management refused to reinstate the collective bargaining agreement for the firm’s 30-plus full and part-time staff by 3pm yesterday.

Mr Furbert said: “It’s sad we have to have a boycott of a business in 2012 because a company is trying to take away the bargaining rights of their staff.

“But we’ve put it out there for our membership and the public and we hope they’ll support this and make it clear to KFC that they cannot strip people’s bargaining rights away.”

Mr Furbert added that he hoped a boycott would bring home to management that they could not unilaterally end union representation.

He said: “You never know exactly what a management team’s thought processes are, particularly when they are talking to lawyers.

“But we are hoping a boycott will have an effect on them.”

The dispute has been simmering since KFC told the BIU last September it intended to end the collective agreement in December.

Late last year, talks between union and management stalled and BIU members picketed the restaurant in protest at the management stance.

In March, Mr Furbert called for the matter to be referred to arbitration.

But the row was heightened when a part-time woman worker at the eatery was sacked because she omitted to tell restaurant bosses she would be late back from holiday.

Mr Furbert said the union was willing to go to independent arbitration.

But he added: “They first of all have to reinstate that woman – she was sacked after ten years of service. Nobody’s condoning what she did, but nobody should lose their job over that. There are other options like written warnings and suspensions.

Compassion

“She had had no problems in the ten years she worked there. The employer has to have a bit of compassion.”

No one from KFC could be reached for comment last night.

But KFC director Jason Benivides is on record as saying the firm was willing to negotiate a new agreement – but warned concessions had to be made if the company was to remain in business.

He added that the 2008 collective agreement made provision for either party to terminate or modify it after three years in operation.

FRIDAY, APRIL 13: Obviously, KFC is disappointed that rather than the BIU trying to work collaboratively with KFC as the social partner they claim to be, the BIU has instead chosen to resort to bully tactics which can serve no purpose other than to try to harm KFC’s business. Should the BIU be successful in encouraging a boycott of KFC, that action will only serve to damage the employment prospects for KFC’s employees who the BIU purport to represent. Despite declining sales in consecutive years and net losses last year, KFC is proud to have been able to stay in business and keep its predominately Bermudian workforce employed with competitive wages and benefits and without a single lay-off. There are, no doubt, former employees of other establishments who might wish they were as fortunate to have worked for as stable an employer as KFC has been so far. Needless to say, KFC’s continuing ability to remain in operation and secure stable jobs for our staff is dependent upon the continued support of our customers. We certainly hope that our customers will continue to treat themselves to the affordable, quality meals that our mostly Bermudian staff has provided to Bermuda for many years. 

Mr. Furbert has claimed that KFC failed to respond to a BIU request by a BIU deadline of 3PM on Thursday April 12th. However, that claim is factually incorrect. The Chairman of KFC sent the attached correspondence to Mr. Furbert on Wednesday afternoon. 

KFC’s position has been clear and consistent for the past year, specifically:

1) KFC recognizes the BIU as our workers’ bargaining agent and will continue to recognize the BIU as such for so long as the workers choose to retain the BIU as their representative;

2) KFC has always been willing to engage in productive discussion with the BIU about substantive issues of interest to both parties, but necessarily this requires that no one party to negotiations can unilaterally set the agenda for discussions;

3) KFC seeks a new agreement with the BIU which treats employees fairly while also recognizing the economic realities in which KFC operates, and which provides a sustainable cost structure for the company;

4) KFC will not make decisions based on threat or coercion, but rather will act based on sound business reasoning and the company’s responsibilities to its various stakeholders;

5) KFC and the BIU entered into the last collective agreement between the parties voluntarily and that agreement contained a mutually agreed provision providing that either party could terminate the agreement after the expiration of the agreement’s fixed term. It can only be disingenuous of the BIU to now claim that a freely negotiated provision of an agreement to which the BIU was a signatory cannot be utilized just because it does not suit the BIU’s present purpose. The lawful termination of the last collective agreement is a separate and distinct issue from certification of the union as the workers’ bargaining agent. KFC has never attempted to de-certify the BIU as the workers’ bargaining agent as the BIU has repeatedly yet erroneously claimed.

6) Notwithstanding the frustrations of the past year as KFC has attempted to come to terms with the BIU for a new collective agreement, KFC does not see walking away from the negotiating process as a desirable or practical solution. KFC remains willing and ready to continue frank discussions with the BIU on the substantive issues which must be addressed to finalise a new collective agreement. We encourage the BIU to come back to the table and work through each clause of the collective agreement with us to find common ground.

FRIDAY, APRIL 13 10:45AM UPDATE: KFC earlier made the statement: “Mr. Furbert has claimed that KFC failed to respond to a BIU request by a BIU deadline of 3PM on Thursday April 12th. However, that claim is factually incorrect. The Chairman of KFC sent the attached correspondence to Mr. Furbert on Wednesday afternoon.”

 

It has just come to my attention that while Mr. Furbert should have receive the correspondence from the KFC Chairman on Wednesday afternoon, due to administrative error it is likely that Mr. Furbert did not receive the letter as intended. On behalf of KFC, I retract the prior statement suggesting that Mr. Furbert received correspondence from KFC on Wednesday afternoon, and apologise to Mr. Furbert for the error.

 

Jason Benevides

Controller & Director

Kentucky Fried Chicken (Bermuda) Limited