Protesters March On Cabinet Grounds, However Ministers No-Show

Bus operators and mechanics, Postal workers, Customs Workers. A few PLP MPs, including former Bermuda Industrial Union President Derrick Burgess.

These were just some of the BIU members and supporters that came out to participate in the second-straight day of protests against the Government’s Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act of 2021. There was even a bigger turnout today from yesterday and even members of the Bermuda Fire and Rescue Service came out to show their support.

Similar to yesterday, the demonstreation started with a prayer by Reverend Nicholas Tweed and a speech from Union President Chris Furbert, who briefly explained the timeline of events leading up to the demonstrations. According to him, the B.I.U. and B.P.S.U. received a letter from the Honorable Minister of Labor Jason Hayward on May 13, making it clear that the Government had been advised by the Attorney General’s chambers about Section 57 of the Trade Union and Labor Relations (Consolidation) Act of 2021, and that the Government agreed to not change the position.

The B.I.U. had an urgent phone call with Premier Burt a little over a week afterwards regarding the Act, and were again told that the Government’s position would remain unchanged and will not be accepting any amendments to the Act.

“ I told the Premier, Minister Hayward and the PLP’s Labor Relations manager that if you are not prepared to have a conversation about any amendments at this time, then I might as well end the call. We are not going anywhere,” Mr. Furbert explained.

Mr. Furbert does not see how the former Home Affairs Minister, under the OBA government, got held accountable by the people for his missteps as Minister, yet Minister Hayward, a former trade union president who failed to get back to labor does not get held accountable. According to Mr. Furbert, he can essentially do what he wants without real consequences.

“ If this were an OBA or UBP government [that was doing this to the unions], then we would be holding them accountable,” he said. “ If the Government of the day is not communicating with the people or the unions, then we need to hold them accountable.”

Mr. Furbert added that, if Minsiter hayward were to call him and apologize for not getting back to the B.I.U. in a timely manner, then the Union would willingly go back and try and reach a compromise with the Government.
“ Make no mistake of what we have: we have international affiliates that we are talking to about support. We do not want to get that kind of support, but we will if we have to,” he said.

Following the speech, Union members and supporters again marched in solidarity throughout Front Street. Unlike yesterday, where they stopped in front of Global House on Church Street and waited for Minister Hayward to come out, today supporters marched to the Cabinet

Grounds and waited for someone to come out; as the Cabinet almost almost meets on Tuesdays.

To their surprise, they were told that no one was in the building, despite it being a Tuesday morning. Some people in the crowd wanted to march up to Alaska Hall, the PLP’s headquarters on Front Street, but instead all headed back to Union Square, where they once again were addressed by President Furbert before leaving for lunch.

“ It takes two parties to communicate. If [the Government] decides to not speak to us, the relationship will break down,” he said. “ It’s incumbent upon the Government and the B.I.U. to sit down and resolve this issue.”
He does not believe that the minor changes to the Act that the Union is asking for will affect anyone in Government in any way.

Rather, the proposed changes will only affect those people within the union’s bargaining unit.

“ [At the end of the day], it’s about protecting the people who put you in power and protecting their labor base,” Mr. Furbert said. “ The majority of this issue falls at the feet of the Government and that is a fact.”

Reporter Stefano Ausenda
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