On September 24, presidents of the Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU’s) respective Bus and Marine and Ports Divisions wrote a letter to the head of the Department of Public Transportation (DPT) Roger Todd and the head of Marine and Ports Rudolph Cann.
The letter concerned their findings within the Occupational Health and Safety Guidance for Employers during COVID-19, particularly under Appendix A.
Based on the legislation, employers are obligated to take all reasonable measures to protect the health and safety of their employees and if an employee feels that their workplace presents a threat to their health and safety, they can initiate a work stoppage action.
In respect to COVID-19, employees can refuse work based on a confirmed or pending virus case within the workplace, a confirmed or pending case within their immediate family or other close contact, the risk of being exposed by customers or clients, or concerns from employees who are particularly vulnerable to the disease, such as the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions.
If an employee initiates a work refusal, the employer must respond in accordance with the current occupational health and safety legislation. Their response will include an investigation into the worker’s concerns and a reduction and possible elimination of the workplace danger.
Employers are not permitted, under any circumstances, to reprimand, suspend or layoff employees for exercising what is their health and safety right.
Taking all of this into consideration, the BIU’s Departments of Public Transport and Marine and Ports request the following before returning to work: a deep cleaning and sanitizing of all buses, vessels and common staff areas, the deep cleaning and sanitizing process to be completed on a mutually agreed schedule, bi-weekly mandatory COVID-19 PCR or saliva tests and no loss of pay during this shutdown period.
Once these requests have been met and honored, only then can a discussion be held about these members returning to work.
“ The BIU’s Bus and Marine and Ports Divisions are more than justified in requesting that we be paid for the time that we have been off because of the health and safety concerns due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter read.
“ The Government policy of no work and no pay does not apply in this situation, because these are not normal circumstances.”
“ In the interest of returning public transport services back to normal so that the people who rely on the service are not inconvenienced any further, we are requesting that both departments rethink their decision of no work and no pay,” the letter concluded.
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