FRIDAY, FEB. 11: Buses were back on the road at noon today after Government agreed to reinstate a fired driver.

Chris Furbert, Bermuda Industrial Union president, announced an end to the 40-plus hour strike this morning.

After a day-and-a-half of strike action, Transport Minister Terry Lister met with BIU executives this morning.

Bus drivers went on strike late on Wednesday afternoon after a colleague with 18 years’ service was fired for ‘gross misconduct’.

They claimed the man — who is in his mid-50s — had been treated unfairly.

The Ministry of Transport said the driver was fired because he worked at a second job on PTB (Public Transportation Board) property after calling in sick.

Mr. Lister said the man had also allegedly fraudulently signed someone else’s name at his part-time job, three days in a row.

He said the man had been suspended for a similar incident in 2009.

The driver was fired on Tuesday. But his colleagues said he had called in sick and had a doctor’s note stating he could not drive the bus due to a groin injury.

They said the man felt “obligated” to attend his second job — refueling buses at the PTB Dockyard depot — as two co-workers were off-island due to a family medical emergency.

Yesterday morning, bus operators continued to strike despite the fact that Kim Wilson, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, issued a Gazette Extraordinary stating the matter was to go to arbitration — a Labour Disputes Tribunal.

Government said under law, this meant industrial action had to cease immediately.

But the unionized bus operators continued in their action in solidarity with their colleague.

They told the Bermuda Sun they had concerns about “inconsistencies” in management disciplinary decisions and about health and safety.

Mr. Furbert tabled a proposal with Government yesterday afternoon asking for the man to be reinstated, with a month’s suspension and six weeks’ probation.

But the union did not receive a response from the Transport Minister by last night.

This morning however, an agreement was made.

Neither Mr. Lister nor Mr. Furbert were unavailable for comment. But Ronue Cann, vice president and shop steward of the BIU’s bus operators and allied workers division, told us today: “The Premier (Paula Cox) was called and the meeting was set up for 9:15am. The whole BIU executive was there.

“We met with the Permanent Secretary and the minister. They listened and we listened and we came to an agreement going forward.

“The gentleman has been reinstated. The union’s original proposal was for four weeks’ suspension but the minister asked for six. But we decided collectively on five.”

The driver is also on probation for a year.

Mr. Cann said there were also moves towards improved communication with the union.

Yesterday Mr. Furbert had criticized Mr. Lister’s apparent lack of response.

Mr. Cann said that at this morning’s meeting, Mr. Lister “reached out to Mr. Furbert saying, ‘We’ve really got to talk a lot more’. So it was quite positive”.

He said the BIU also discussed “other issues” with Government, including “inconsistencies” in managerial decision-making and health and safety concerns.

“Going forward, we want management to treat everyone the same,” Mr. Cann said.

Asked what the mood was among the drivers, Mr. Cann said: “It’s not about any parties being victorious. There’s a right way and wrong way of doing things and we also have a Collective Bargaining Agreement which we go by and stand by.

“To quote the union motto, ‘United we stand, divided we fall’.”