During a press conference yesterday, president of the Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU) Chris Furbert voiced the union’s concern with certain layoff practices adopted by some employers at the expense of Bermudian workers. He called this practice unacceptable.
“ Bermudians are being laid off in several businesses and it needs to stop,” he said. “ Let’s just be crystal clear: as of November 2021, there are 46 closed categories as it relates to work permit restrictions.”
When the now opposition One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) were in power five years ago, they provided the St. Regis hotel, one of Bermuda’s newest ones, with 137 work permits. According to Mr. Furbert, the hotel could use these work permits as they choose, even if it meant using them to fill positions that are supposed to be closed to non-Bermudians.
“ If there are policies or restrictions that certain employers are not following, how are we going to ensure that employers are doing what they are supposed to be doing on behalf of Bermudians, who should be gainfully employed within their own country,” Mr. Furbert asked.
Union Recording Secretary Ronnie Burgess said that a letter was recently sent to the Minister of Labor the Honorable Jason Hayward, JP, MP, regarding the layoff situation at the hotel. After going back and forth with the Minister, she told Ministry staff that people at the hotel are working in closed categories and have put Bermudians out of work as a result.
“ From what we understand, there is an MOU (memorandum of understanding) between the government and St. Regis that supersedes the work permit policy,” Ms. Burgess said.
“ If job categories are listed as restricted, then they should be restricted,” Mr. Furbert said. “ WHat is the point of making them restricted if employers are going to do what they want to anyway?”
In an exclusive interview with TNN following the press conference, Mr. Furbert said that the Union is getting ready to sign an agreement with the Fairmont Southampton Princess and are just trying to find a date to sign that agreement. According to him, they are also negotiating with the Hamilton Princess and around 80 percent of that agreement is completed as well.
“ We have to go back to our members regarding some of our concerns to get their buy-in and hopefully we can also get the Hamilton Princess agreement done and out of the way,” he said.
A couple of months ago, Elbow Beach, Hamilton Princess and Southampton Princess all broke away from the Hotel Employers Board (HEB) and asked the BIU to negotiate a separate agreement with them. Mr. Furbert told employers at the hotel, however, that the BIU cannot do or agree upon anything without their members’ permission.
“ We went from having 12,000 beds 30 years ago to just over 5,000 hotel beds and we have lost around 30 percent of them [as a result of Fairmont and Elbow Beach being closed],” he said. “ My estimate is that we are losing 100 to 150 millio dollars per year as a result of Princess being closed.”
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