Bus Dispute Sent To Labor Relations Tribunal

Yesterday, I issued a statement confirming that the Government would utilise minibuses’ services to cover the core bus routes. We implemented this contingency plan to help our residents who have been burden with having to find transportation.

This Government has a long history of support for the labour movement in Bermuda. The support of the Bermudian workforce and recognition of the fundamental rights of all workers has not changed. However, as Government, we must act to deliver expected public services. The Government has drafted, introduced and passed laws that protect labour rights, its workers and the movement.

Today, we remain committed to working on resolving the current impasse.

Over the last few days, you have heard me say several times that on September 21st, the DPT management updated the Labour Department that the original safety and health concerns raised by the BIU Bus Division had been resolved.

Subsequently, DPT was then informed that the BIU members would continue to withhold their labour, citing that they needed to be paid for the entire time they were out.

The BIU Bus Division President remained adamant that his request to his Co-Chair counterpart for the DPT Safety and Health Committee was not actioned. I believe it would be helpful to note that at no time did he require her approval to arrange the meeting. To be clear, as a Co-Chair himself, he has the power to call a meeting.

DPT informed Labour Relations on Tuesday of last week that safety and health issues had been resolved. Management addressed the workers concerns by sharing the current cleaning policy.

The policy is that buses are cleaned when they sit for more than 20 minutes at any bus depot. Contracted cleaning staff come daily from 4:30 pm to midnight and comprehensively clean out every bus. This is done seven days a week. They also have an electrostatic sprayer. Additionally, the administrative offices are cleaned by an outside cleaning company. All the offices, hallways, stairwells, drivers’ restrooms, bathrooms, shower stalls, kitchens, etc., are cleaned each evening. This has been the practice for years, all in accordance with the Ministry of Health’s guidelines. In fact, the DPT’s cleaning goes beyond what is required by the Ministry of Health.

Additionally, the BIU Bus Division cited sections 7A and 7C of the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1982 for their actions.

It would be remiss of me not to highlight section 7B of the Act, which speaks explicitly to the procedure to be followed. If BIU had followed the process, they should have remained available for work until the outcome of any investigation of their concerns. If the investigation found that their actions were warranted, they would have been entitled to be paid.

There was never any legal reason that justified DPT workers failing to carry out their duties as employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Act 1982 (or its Regulations) does not support the Bus Division’s position.

In this circumstance, the Government is entitled to deduct DPT employees’ pay pursuant to both the common law and section 8(3)(c) of the Employment Act 2000. This means the Government is not required to pay the employees for any part of their time away from work. The Ministry stands by its policy of “no work, no pay”.

It must be appreciated that in filling its mandate to protect the interests of the people they represent, which is the general public, I activated the Ministry’s Emergency Transportation Plan.

Today minibuses will be driving the core bus routes, 1, 3, 7, 8, 10 and 11, from seven o’clock this morning until seven o’clock this evening, with all routes scheduled on the hour, every hour. The service is free to commuters.

The minibuses are operating by the Ministry of Health’s Guidance for Public Transportation. Therefore, commuters will already be familiar with the requirements for mask-wearing and hand sanitising.

The matter has been referred to the Employment and Labour Relations Tribunal for settlement. We anticipate that the bus service will return to the regularly scheduled service tomorrow.
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