Solidarity: Bus drivers Eversley Zuill, Myra Walker and Ronue Cann yesterday pledged their support for a colleague whose firing triggered a bus strike. New light has been shed on the circumstances of his dismissal. *Photo by Amanda Dale
Solidarity: Bus drivers Eversley Zuill, Myra Walker and Ronue Cann yesterday pledged their support for a colleague whose firing triggered a bus strike. New light has been shed on the circumstances of his dismissal. *Photo by Amanda Dale
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Bus drivers yesterday shed new light on the firing of a colleague that sparked their strike. And they said they will stay off the road until he is is reinstated.

Ronue Cann, vice president and shop steward of the BIU’s Bus Operators, said the man had a doctor’s note saying he could not drive buses due to a groin injury, but felt he had an “obligation” to refuel buses at the PTB Dockyard depot (a second job) as his co-workers were that day absent.

The 146 bus operators employed by the Public Transportation Board (PTB) stressed their solidarity as the dispute with Government continued last night.

One driver said: “We will support each other. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”

As employees waited at PTB headquarters yesterday for the latest update on the stand-off from Chris Furbert, Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU) president, they said their colleague had been treated unfairly.

Workers also complained about “inconsistency” in management disciplinary action and expressed concerns about health and safety.

The drivers went on strike on Wednesday night in protest at the firing of a bus operator of 18 years service, for gross misconduct.

The worker was said to have been fired because he called in sick but then worked at a second job, refueling buses.

Suspended

The Department of Transport claimed the man had previously been suspended for a similar incident in the past.

But Mr. Furbert told Government the driver should have been suspended again rather than fired.

Yesterday he met with Deputy Premier Derrick Burgess to table a union proposal, with the aim of ending the dispute.

Mr. Furbert did not announce a decision from Transport Minister Terry Lister until after 8pm last night, meaning buses remained off the road.

Mr. Cann said: “The union motto is ‘United we stand, divided we fall’.”

He said union members felt the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) disciplinary procedure had not been followed regarding their fired colleague.

He added the man — who is in his mid-fifties and has a family to support — had gone to work at his second job out of a commitment to keep buses running for the public.

Mr. Cann said: “We have a process here, it’s a Collective Bargaining Agreement, and it has stages for disciplining people.

“There is a process here but it has not been followed, and so this could happen to anyone. This brother has got 18 months in the clear. He got the probation period but they still decide to fire him.

“It’s been stated he didn’t call in sick for three days, but that is untrue. He called in sick from this job and produced a legitimate doctor’s note saying he couldn’t drive the bus because he had a groin injury.”

Mr. Cann said the man was also employed by a PTB contractor but two co-workers were absent for three days due to having to go overseas for a family emergency, leaving no one to refuel the buses at Dockyard.

“Because they couldn’t do the work he felt obligated to complete the task. It was perhaps a bad decision at the time but we feel he should not be terminated for that.

“It wasn’t deliberate or malicious what he did. He wasn’t trying to defraud anyone. If he hadn’t have refueled those buses and opened the gate at 5:30am, no one would have been able to get in and no buses would have been running. It’s not like he was even being sneaky about it because there are cameras up there in the yard.”

Mr. Cann said: “There is inconsistency from the management team. There have been occasions when someone has been suspended but other people have been let go completely (for similar incidents).”

Mr. Cann said drivers also had issues over health and safety: “It’s the law Government should have a safety and health meeting every month, but we haven’t had a meeting for three months.”

Mr. Cann said he had also raised concerns over buses operating during the onset of Hurricane Igor.

“All we are asking for is consistency across the board,” he said.

One female driver said: “I feel strongly about it (the fired colleague) because he has a family and has to survive.

“I don’t agree with what he did but I’m going to support him at the same time.

“I think they (management) should have given him disciplinary action — two or three weeks suspension — but don’t take the food out of his mouth.

“We’ve got management that are managing wrongly and judging wrongly.”