Government Files Injunction In Dock Dispute

December 13, 2012

[Updated] The Government has filed an application for an injunction in the ongoing dock dispute, with the proceedings beginning at 5pm today [Dec 12].

Stevedoring Services Ltd [SSL] CEO Peter L. Aldrich previously said the decline of cargo imports due to the present economy has reduced revenues, and meeting their financial commitments has become progressively difficult.

As there is reduced work available for dock workers due to the lower imports, Mr Aldrich said they offered a guaranteed minimum workweek of either 22.5 hours or 15 hours, with standby pay for the balance of the 37.5 hours, which was around 50% [$16- $18 per hour] for standby time. He said negotiations were unsuccessful, and SSL was left with no alternative but to issue notice of temporary lay-offs.

BIU President Chris Furbert has said the workers believe that as their work is gone, its “worth a lot more to them” than the 50% SSL offered for that time. He also noted that while SSL is saying the unionised members will be home on layoffs and/or standby pay, three superintendents will be working, which he said means they will be effectively “supervising nobody.”

This evening’s statement from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is below:

The Ministry advised that the matter has been referred to arbitration.

However, Stevedoring Services Ltd has communicated its intent to proceed with layoffs, thus the Ministry has instructed the Attorney General’s Chambers to file an application for an injunction against SSL in an effort to stave off their actions and the BIU to prevent any industrial action.

Once a matter has been heard by the courts, which began at 5.00 p.m., it is expected that both parties will withdraw any action until the arbitration process has concluded. The move comes as SSL issued notice that layoffs would take effect from today.

The public will recall that last Friday, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Hon. Patrice Minors reminded the parties that the docks dispute had been referred to the Labour Disputes Tribunal, and she called on both parties to ensure that business operated as normal as possible until the matter has been satisfactorily resolved.

As such this latest development is the Ministry’s attempt to ensure that the proper mediation processes are followed while the matter is in arbitration.

Update Dec 13, 12.38pm: SSL CEO Peter L. Aldrich said: “Despite not actually being served with any court papers in regards to a Government injunction preventing any further action from either party in the dock dispute, Stevedoring Services is, in good faith, complying with what it understands the order to be.

“In the meantime, we are preparing an appeal to have the injunction overturned. All of our actions have been legal and in compliance with the collective bargaining agreement, so we are confident of our position.

“We remain committed to efforts to find a mutually agreeable resolution to this issue. The simple economics of the situation dictate that we must find a solution to reduce the expense attributed to the 50 per cent non-productive employment costs if the business is to survive.”

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  1. Keepin' it Real...4Real! says:

    We all understand the trickle down effect of world economics…but realistically a decreased workweek should be followed by a decreased monthly payments which are expected by each and everyone of these individuals…ie; mortgages, utilities, foods, necessities and so forth…why is it the most important jobs are the ones that are affected or eliminated at the whim of shareholders….if you keep cutting thee roots of a tree what happens …IT DIES…to make a tree grow strong and flourish..YOU CUT THE TOPS….YOU CUT THE TOPS not the ROOTS!!!
    without those guys that unload ships there will be no goods forwarded to said destinations {supermarkets need i say more with out food you DIE}
    anyway there is nothing you can do when the elitists of capitalism reign…their plan to accumulate the worlds wealth and leave you to DIE is working but you all are too DUMB (by design i might add) or asleep and refuse to wake up…but you WILL be woken up, to face your fate which usually means it too late.

    • tricks are for kids says:

      @Keepin’ It Real….4Real……Thanks for keeping it real……

      • Blurt says:

        Keep it real…without the folks doing the paperwork, import, export filing, there too will be no goods to unload, they will all be stuck in overseas ports. Tell the whole truth, not just the truth that suits you !

        • 1minute says:

          With out the people buying from the stores their will be no need for people to do the paperwork…

          • Hey says:

            I think the Labour Disputes tribunal should meet Monday and resolve this by the end of the day. Workers need to have this resolved, the company needs to have this resolved. Currently the whole mess is costing everyone time, energy and money..I’m sure the lawyers are loving it, BIU is loving the opportunity of press and the government will USE THIS to electioneer. The workers need to know what is happening the company needs to know what is happening. Get the tribunal up and running and done by end of day Monday!!! MOVE IT !

            • Hey says:

              This is of national importance!!!! SO GET IT DONE

              • Argosy says:

                The PLP/BIU government will NOT move on it and it will not get done.

                SSL will be stopped from making the redundencies and the BIU will be allowed to ban overtime. They have already stated that “…it’s not compulsory.” This is how the BIU operates…stall, waver, introduce totally irrelevant points…..

                The PLP know this full well but is a rabit frozen in the Union’s high-bean headlights and unable to move. Ask them what happened to the bus driver who refused a drug test after causing an accident…

                Pathetic. Another reason to fire the PLP/BIU party! Wake up, people – you vote for an independent candidate at your peril.

    • Um Um Like says:

      Its a shame that since 1998 we’ve been cutting our roots…

    • bermyluv says:

      Crazy thing is that you have your tree upside down. You think the workers are the roots, but they are not. The roots are where the tree starts, and this company didn’t start with the workers. It started with the owners and investors…and it ends with them too.

      • over soon.. says:

        well said.
        As harsh as it sounds, the workers are more like leaves. They can grow and provide for the tree, but when the time comes they can be shed, and then regrown when needed again.

        Thats life. I’d say being paid 50% to go home would be an amazing deal.

    • sonso says:

      wow! that is a lil grim and drole wouldnt you say? i think that i got shivers after reading that.

      why dont you try to look at the situation from a different light, maybe think that those dock workers should be thankful that they are still able to be paid that monthly wage every month, regardless if it is 50% less. some families are getting $0.00 dollars per month income because they are unemployed.

    • 32n64w says:

      I think you have your analogy backwards. The shareholders’ capital is the roots of this and virtually every other business. Without investment there would be no jobs (or branches, to use your tree paradigm). If you want to save the tee you sometimes need to prune the dead underperforming wood.

    • George says:

      @Keepin’ it Real…..4Real. I think your and the proceeding comments on your analogy of a tree (roots) are quite telling about the disconnect between how employees (& unions) and management perceive their roles within a company. The union (and their workers) see the workers’ position as being essential with that of management being expendable, management see their role as essential with the workers position being expendable . The fact of the matter is all positions within a company are expendable (part of the Capitalist system of economics that we have adopted) and that’s the point at which all understanding/appreciation for ones role in a company (whether its private/public sector) should start!

  2. Family Man says:

    I guess the government should have taken out an injunction against Willowbank so they couldn’t lay off all those people.

    If the company’s revenues aren’t enough to cover their costs they can just close their eyes really tight, click their heels and … oh no, wait, that’s what the government does. Companies do what Willowbank and Whites did.

    • Rick Rock says:

      Perhaps the should also have taken an injunction against Burt Construction, that evil capitalist company that employed 30+ people prior to firing them all when it ceased trading in July 2012. Obviously the owners were only thinking about the mighty dollar. Why couldn’t they just keep paying the 30 people who had nothing to do? After all, they were loyal employees. Those employees had mortgages and children to pay for. Why was the Burt family so selfish?

  3. Blurt says:

    If the injunction is given, it sends a message to all businesses including multinational reinsurers, that at anytime the government can stop them operating to survive…..this is not good folks. Ultimately there will be more job losses, less goods coming in and ZERO work.

  4. swing voter says:

    I’m a trade unionist and I believe in following the CBA to the letter. If either side are careless during negotiations, it usually comes back to bite the careless party in the azz when disputes arise. so my question is what does the CBA state …… are layoffs agreed to in the CBA. what about redundancy proceedures…..weird that both sides appear to be making up their positions as it becomes more apparent that the ship is no longer triple stacked with cargo….. No IB, no service industry

    • Former Union Member says:

      This is a reasonable statement. What does the CBA state? With KFC the Union let the contract lapse (if memory serves) and Management acted accordingly. Minister Minors cannot force a company to operate at a loss…especially if they are following the Collective Bargaining Agreement in terms of proper notice.

  5. Tolerate says:

    Please can someone closer to the issue shed a little more light. While I truly take NO sides on this as I don’t have enough back ground, but am deeply concerned with more fellow Bermudians being out of work. If the company takes the route of lay-offs, would that not mean there will be individuals with NO paycheck as opposed to what the SSL is offering as half (plus). I understand Bermudians have mortgages and other payments, but if your employer can not pay their work force and opts for a reduced work week as opposed to layoffs, it’s an unfortunate situation, but as Government has continuously stated; this is due to a recession Bermuda is feeling.
    I just feel that with unemployment being what it is, the chooses being put forward is we keep half our work force at full pay or ALL our work force at reduced pay. The latter means we have Bermudians seeking a part-time job to make up the slack, or Bermudians seeking fulltime employment which is scarce. In such a situation priority always favors the employee who has the most years at the company or the ones in a specialist position.
    Believe me, I sympathize with the workers; but this is the challenges in Bermuda that a lot of unemployed people are facing. Unfortunately companies restructure leading to job losses (of which NO-ONE wants), but what can we do. Companies are in business to make money and not operate in the red. I don’t for one minute believe that workers have to settle for what scraps companies want to give them, but if a company can only continue to pay so many full-time staff, it means some people are out of work.
    Now if a company can continue to pay ALL their staff and are using the present circumstances to try and short cut the workers, they should be exposed

  6. we are blessed says:

    What happens if SSL goes out of business like Computer City, Wheels, Whites etc. I would think that Government cannot make a business, even with union workers, stay in business. Then the tree dies, no goods by boat into Bermuda until……

  7. Soooooo says:

    I said weeks ago that if the workers didn’t accept the offer that SSL would have no choice but to lay off workers…. My question is IF arbitration says SSL can’t lay these people off (or cut their hours) who is gong to pay… WE ARE!! SSL are going to have no choice but to raise their rates which will equate to a rise in the cost of everything. Who’s to blame? The union!!

    You figure SSL workers are getting @ 100% pay $32-36 an hour…. So between 66 and 74 k a year… Plus overtime… Now the company is offering them… 22 hrs at full pay… 41-43k plus standby of 12-14k for doing nothing… So 53-57k . And still paying overtime when worked….

    I know a whole lot of people that would take that!!!!!

  8. media says:

    It was a real eye opener that dock workers are actually paid for doing nothing a lot of the time! It is called non productive time! The business model seems totally outdated and I find it amazing that it is an accepted norm on the docks at least. It seems to me that the work would now be considered part time work. During the boom years of course it could be justified, but as there has been less and less work for them to do and less hours, it is not a good model and must be changed for the business to survive. The union will fight it to the death, but times have changed and if we don’t change, things will only keep getting worse.

    • Argosy says:

      It’s not really surprising!

      Like BELCO, they are a monoply and can simply charge what they wish.

  9. WTF says:

    During their non productive time they play computer games and they get paid for it.

    Nice work if you can get it.

  10. Keepin' it Real...4Real! says:

    the fact still remains after all of your scenerios and how you only know ONE side of the business world is quite evident to me but…less work means less money… definitely no 2nd jobs available…so, YOU come up short on ya bills and see if they dont TAKE what you got ie; HOUSE…yet mr. corporate doesnt even know theres a recession except that his bottom line is not where he’s become accustomed to….so to all of you that that think my tree is upside down… i respect your opinion…but any business savy individual or group bottomline is profit and would close before going below or coming down here to the humans like me and most dwell.

    And @Blurt…i think i once told you to think before you Blurt.
    You seem to think that i was one sided or something ..? i jus made a comment not writing a registered letter. take it easy brah

    • Soooooo says:

      4Real.. Buisness owners don’t go into business to lose money, would you? I know I wouldn’t! The bottom line is that SSL have allot invested here, they over the past few years have spent millions replacing equipment and implementing safety procedures on the docks.

      Owners / investors / banks expect a return on their investment and their loans re-paid.. If a business cannot support itself, then it needs to do someing… Lower expenditure, increase revenue… Choose one! If SSL cannot cut wages then they will need to raise prices…. So wait for the price of everything in the stores to go up…

  11. longtail says:

    Once again the Ewart Brown Party – despite all claims to the contrary – are siding with Vince Ingham against Bermudian businesses.

  12. CBA says:

    Can’t have a strike during an election. Can you imagine what that would do to the plp?

    • 1minute says:

      Nothing… They think it is ALL management’s fault, not the PLP or BIU’s fault…

    • Concerned says:

      why not – we don’t have an accountant General before or during the election – has her position been closed like Parliament?

  13. Vote for Me says:

    I do not think the facts are clear. Also, what is the injunction doing? Stopping the strike or forcing SSL to continue operating as normal?

    More information would help the public to undertand the issues.

  14. Albert Sodergren says:

    So what are the options?

    Wait for the arbitration process to run its course.
    The process could easily take months.
    SSL will continue to lose money and may well go out of business.
    In the end SSL has already cut everything except labour, there
    is nothing left.

    SSL ignore the injunction and continue with the layoffs.
    BIU will pull all workers off the docks so no ships will be offloaded.
    Food shortages within days. Perishable food would have to be imported
    by air with massive price increases for consumers. Feed for cows and
    chickens to be flown in as well with huge price increases for milk
    and eggs.

    SSL raises prices for its services.
    The cost of everything goes up.
    More retailers go out of business.
    Unemployment increases.
    More bad loans for the banks to hide.

    BIU yields and agrees to the reduced work week as proposed by SSL.
    Not going to happen as C Furbert would appear to be a loser.

    Government nationalizes SSL. (Ummm…..Its in the nations interest!)
    The workers get paid.
    The shareholders get screwed.
    The islands reputation goes down the toilet.

  15. Codfish says:

    The real villain here is Burch and company’s sowing the seeds of economic catastrophe during the good times – which is why BCL is carrying 30% less cargo than it was four years ago. I cannot blame dock workers for wanting the best possible deal and neither Stevedoring Services for protecting its shareholders – I can blame the economic ignorance and plain nastiness of the ruling elite for making things far worse than they had to be.

  16. 32n64w says:

    Yet again the PLP insert themselves into private business matters. Pretty ironic considering they go out of their way to hinder, obfuscate and distract voters from obtaining basic financial information on how our tax dollars are being spent but waste no time (and expense) going after employers for truing to keep their businesses afloat in an economic maelstrom of the PLP’s creation.

    Why hasn’t the Minister taken the BIU to court for failing to file their audited accounts in a timely manner?

    Why didn’t the PLP take the BIU to court for failing to satisfy the terms of the Berkeley performance bond?

    Why is there one set of rules for the PLP/BIU friends and family and an entirely different one for the rest of Bermuda?

    • Argosy says:

      AND…..where is the “Son of the Soil” report that the Privy Council said should be published after Ewart lost the appeal he made to them at our expense?

      Recall, EFB sent a delegation from the Att Gen’s Chambers lead by Phil Perinchief et al on our dime….

      What did we get for that funding? Where is the report being hidden?

      More obfuscation. “Trsnaparency” indeed. Can’t you PLP die-hards see this? If not, you must ideed be totally blind!!

  17. de ja vodoo says:

    Bermuda is sinking while rhe Union blames……….

  18. Family Man says:

    I am sure the ‘workers’ are hoping that SSL doesn’t have a ‘computer glitch’ when it comes time to cut those payroll cheques.

  19. bir says:

    and no food to eat like chicken macronni & cheese, peas and rice, spanish rice, those peopel that are sleeping the better wake up soo

  20. Terry says:

    Scare tactics used by the PLP/BIU.
    Vote for them and all will be well.
    Pollytricks……………..and bullsheet.

  21. Triangle Drifter says:

    Time for the dockworkers to take a cut like everyone else. Everyone else that is, except those paid by the ACCT GENERAL. Their turn is coming too.