Solidarity: BIU members attend a meeting regarding the KFC dispute. *Photo by Kageaki Smith
Solidarity: BIU members attend a meeting regarding the KFC dispute. *Photo by Kageaki Smith

FRIDAY, MAY 4: KFC Bermuda and the BIU are to be ordered to arbitration by a Government Minister.

Economy Trade and Industry Minister Patrice Minors will today officially announce a dispute and refer the matter to a Labour Disputes Tribunal.

But KFC maintain the Minister has no power to compel parties to take part in the arbitration process.

Mr Furbert backed the arbitration move and said if the company was allowed to change the current terms and conditions, other firms would queue up to follow suit.

He added: “We are in a situation in industrial relations where we have custom and process and precedent-setting.

“If you set a new precedent, all employers will fall into line and that’s been our biggest fear since day one of this dispute.

“We know there are employers out there waiting in line for this case to finish so they can do the exact same thing.”

He was speaking after hundreds of union members downed tools for the meeting at the BIU’s HQ in Hamilton this morning.

Buses, ferries and other Government services were disrupted while the meeting, which lasted around 2.5 hours, was held.

It is understood around half a dozen KFC workers attended the meeting.

Defended

Mr Furbert said that the union was willing to call off a boycott of KFC if the present collective bargaining agreement is reinstated.

They also want to see a sacked KFC employee given her job back and agreement that KFC will take part in the tribunal process.

Mr Furbert also defended the morning’s disruption — which had been criticised for causing transport problems right at the start of the tourist season.

He said: “Employers have businesses to run and just like them, the BIU is a business — we have a membership we have to take care of.

“Under normal circumstances, these sort of work stops shouldn’t happen — but when they have to happen, they’re for a good reason.

“Employers are looking to take away the rights of workers and take away the gains obtained over a number of years. We see that as an outright attack on this organization.

“Workers have the right to have a meeting and to hear the information. We don’t have these meetings every other day or every other week.”

In a statement yesterday, KFC management repeated that the economic crisis had forced the firm to look to re-negotiate the existing collective bargaining agreement.

Negotiating

But the statement added that the firm had no intention of reducing pay and conditions “for any of its existing employees”.

The firm also claimed that the BIU had walked away from talks earlier this year.

The statement added that KFC had accepted Ms Minors’ invitation to discuss the dispute with her.

But management said in a release: “KFC advised the Minister that it believes the best way forward is for the BIU to return to the negotiating table for a frank discussion about outstanding differences with KFC and for good faith negotiations to continue until a new collective agreement is reached.”