During a press conference yesterday morning, Bermuda Industrial Union ( B.I.U) President Chris Furbert provided an update on the current dispute between the Department of Public Transportation (D.P.T) and the BIU’s bus division.
While the Union acknowledges and appreciates the Government’s position that the dispute is labor-based, they want to make it clear that the dispute is clearly one of the health and safety of bus operators and other DPT staff.
“ This [dispute] is not a case of someone who woke up this morning and decided to ignore their employer or to be on their phone when they were not supposed to be, etc., this is a health and safety issue,” Mr. Furbert explained. “ Whilst we appreciate the introduction of vaccines which have provided some safety in the work environment for employees, the fact that we still have a virus out there spreading the way that [currently] is should be extremely concerning to Bermuda and it is certainly concerning to other countries, but it does not seem like it is that important for the island as it was back in 2020.”
According to Mr. Furbert, almost all bus operators were sent home last year at the start of the COVID pandemic for three months and were paid for every day of that time before returning to work. Due to this, he finds it extremely ironic that the Ministry of Transport is implementing and enforcing their no-work, no-pay policy in this situation where operators are only asking for a few days’ pay.
“ Whilst [the Government’s] no-work, no-pay policy has been in place for some decades now, in the case of health and safety, there cannot be a blanket policy for any and everything,” he said. “ If someone raises a valid reason as to why they believe they should be paid, then they should be paid . . .
All we’re asking the Government to do is press the pause button and let’s have a conversation about how and why the family is not agreeing to what we need to be agreeing to.”
Mr. Furbert received a communication this morning from DPT Director Roger Todd that this matter has already been referred to a labor tribunal.
According to the President of the BIU’s bus division Eugene Ball, despite the DPT losing almost 20 percent of its staff within a few days and one employee in the hospital, all as a result of COVID-19, in addition to there currently being over 1500 active cases island-wide and countless others in quarantine, bus operators are continuously being told that it is okay to come to work.
Vice President of the BIU’s bus division Antoine Wade, on behalf of the union’s entire bus division, apologized to the public for the inconvenience and acknowledged what a hard time it is for the community. However, he also acknowledged that the issue did not have to get to the point that it is at right now.
“ All we were asking for was a deep clean, which would have taken three days at most, for our operators to get tested, and to double up on the cleaning of the buses,” he said. “ All of this could have been done and sorted out in a matter of days. They do not want to pay operators for being out on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and they are now paying scaled labour to run our operation and let people ride for free.”
“ It is hard on the operators, too,” Mr. Wade continued. “ We want the public to know that we are not taking this lightly. If we do not stand for something, then we’ll fall for anything. If we allow the government to do this to us, then who [and what] is next?”
The B.I.U. plans meet with the general council soon to see what the next step to support their bus division would look like
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