Minister, Stevedoring & BIU On Dock Dispute

December 8, 2012

Minister Patrice Minors, Stevedoring Services CEO Peter Aldrich and BIU President Chris Furbert addressed the dock workers dispute, which will see both layoffs and an overtime ban take effect next week.

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Patrice Minors said that she has received correspondence from both parties involved and said she has sent a letter to each organisation advising that she has referred the matter to the Labour Disputes Tribunal.

Minister Minors said, “We are in the throes of the holiday season, one of the busiest times of the year for our economy and our businesses. That said, I want to assure residents and businesses that we will be monitoring the situation very closely, and it is my hope that all parties can come to an agreement as swiftly as possible to ensure that there are no further adverse effects on our economy and trade.”

Stevedoring Services CEO Peter L. Aldrich recently sent a letter to the media saying it is “no secret that the Bermuda economy is in a depression” and said the company’s challenge is the decline of cargo imports.

He said current volumes are at year 2000 levels, with tonnage declining a further 10% over the same period last year and total container moves for the same period have also declined a further 8%.

Mr Aldrich said Stevedoring’s revenues are directly related to cargo volume, and continuing to meet their financial commitments with lower revenues and ever-increasing overheads has become progressively difficult.

They have been actively worked to reduce operating expenses and from 2007 to 2012 expenses have been reduced by 24% due to austerity measures, Mr Aldrich said.

Mr Aldrich said: “Our final proposal to reduce the financial impact of this non-productive time was to have a guaranteed minimum workweek of 22.5 hours or 15 hours depending on the shipping schedule, with a standby pay regime for the balance of the 37.5 hours, which was around 50 per cent of the standard pay rate or $16/$17/$18 per hour for standby time.”

“Despite our best and prolonged efforts, negotiations proved to be unsuccessful. Thus, under the terms of the Collective Agreement, specifically Article 18, Stevedoring was left with no alternative but to issue two weeks’ notice of temporary lay-offs,” said Mr Aldrich.

BIU President Chris Furbert also addressed the situation yesterday, confirming that the port workers issued a notice of suspension of overtime, which will take effect at 8am on Tuesday [Dec 11]. He said the layoffs will take effect the following day.

Mr Furbert said that Stevedoring Services “just hired 3-4 people over the last four to five weeks.” Mr Furbert said: “We had suggested that they put a freeze on hiring, recognizing that they have financial challenges right now.”

“While we understand management has done what they can to cut the management team, the BIU Port Workers Team still contends that they have three superintendents,” continued Mr Fubert.

“And while the employer is saying our members will be home on layoffs or receiving standby pay, those three superintendents will be there…supervising who? They will be supervising nobody.”

“And that’s one of the workers main challenges right now, that it appears that they are only trying to get at the unionized workers as opposed to looking at the management across the board.”

Stevedoring Services CEO Peter L. Aldrich’s full letter follows below:

Throughout the course of negotiations with the Bermuda Industrial Union, Stevedoring Services Ltd. has remained tight lipped over the circumstances surrounding the operation of the dock and the specifics of these talks so not to jeopardise negotiations. However, given the fact that negotiations have concluded and the media has been presented with information from other sources, we feel that the public has a right to receive fair and balanced representation of the facts.

It is no secret that the Bermuda economy is in a depression and we as a country are facing some real challenges on all fronts. For Stevedoring Services Ltd., our challenge is the decline of cargo import volumes, which has been so significant that current volumes are at year 2000 levels. We and our industry partners believe that import volumes will continue to fall. Fiscal year to date numbers show import tonnage has declined a further 10 per cent over the same period last year and total container moves for the same period have also declined a further 8 per cent.

Stevedoring’s revenues are directly related to cargo volume and as such we have been feeling the financial strain. Continuing to meet our financial commitments with lower revenues and ever-increasing overheads has become progressively difficult in recent months.

We have been actively working to reduce our operating expenses, wherever possible and through prudent management. Company expenses from 2007 to 2012 have been reduced by 24 per cent as a direct result of dedicated austerity measures.

The union is attempting to lead the public to believe that it is the union members only that are being asked to bear the brunt of necessary action following from our falling revenues. Nothing could be further from the truth. In 2006 we had 24 admin and management staff and in 2012 we have reduced that number to 14 through natural attrition and redundancies, 50 per cent of who were promoted up through the ranks of the Port Workers Division of the BIU into management and administrative positions. By 2013 we expect that number to be down to 13, the absolute minimum number of management and administration positions we need to operate the total workings of the business safely and effectively. It is not simplistically about the ratio of supervisors to dockworkers, and most people know this to be true.

Despite our best efforts, business expenses continue to mount while our revenues decline. In addition to decreased cargo volumes, we have seen significant changes that have affected our trade in recent years. The closure of the stripping sheds, the reduction of cruise ship arrivals and decline in imported cars, to name a few. As the dock has changed so too have our workforce requirements. Stevedoring, however, remains committed as an employer to identifying a solution that is acceptable to our employees, while reasonable and practical for us as a business.

Currently, during the weeks when we have three ships in port, we have three regular days’ work for our port workers. During the weeks when we have two ships in port, we have two regular days’ work. This means that we have approximately 40-50 per cent of non-productive time for 50 per cent of our work force. This method of operation is simply not financially sustainable in the current economic climate. As a result, Stevedoring has been attempting to negotiate a change with the Port Workers Division of the Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU) since February 2011.

Our final proposal to reduce the financial impact of this non-productive time was to have a guaranteed minimum workweek of 22.5 hours or 15 hours depending on the shipping schedule, with a standby pay regime for the balance of the 37.5 hours, which was around 50 per cent of the standard pay rate or $16/$17/$18 per hour for standby time.

Important to note is that any hours that would have normally attracted an overtime rate of pay would have remained unchanged. In the past overtime has contributed over 25 per cent to workers gross pay. Also there would have been NO loss of benefits for the workers i.e. no reduction in vacation or sick leave entitlement or other benefits.

Out of a workforce of 40, this would mainly affect 21 persons in the first instance, namely those workers whose positions and work are solely required when ships are in port and actively being worked. Other positions will be assessed as the effective functioning of the dock is monitored.

The possibility of re-introducing the archaic practice of applying royalties to containers (a fee paid per ton by the importer) that leave the dock simply to be stripped elsewhere, only to supplement the paycheck of dockworkers who have no part in stripping them, has been raised by the President of the BIU. This will clearly not fly in today’s world, which is obviously far different from the economic world when royalties were in place.

I do not believe that the BIU would want to revert back to this historic practice – which did not come with the benefits and secure pay currently enjoyed – and I am certain that our clients and consumers simply would not tolerate it. This alternative proposal would merely shift the non-productive expense to the importer who would be responsible for paying the royalties. Importers are already struggling to stay afloat and this could surely accelerate their demise.

Despite our best and prolonged efforts, negotiations proved to be unsuccessful. Thus, under the terms of the Collective Agreement, specifically Article 18, Stevedoring was left with no alternative but to issue two weeks’ notice of temporary lay-offs.

Stevedoring is committed to ensuring that together we, the company and its employees, survive this on-going economic depression as a viable operation. If we are to succeed, we must also accept that there must be change; the simple fact is that maintaining the status quo is not going to keep us in business.

Any type of change is challenging, but at no time in the history of our company has change been so necessary. Like many local companies at present, we literally cannot afford NOT to change.

Regardless of the current situation our original proposal remains on the table in good faith and failing that we look forward to a speedy resolution through the arbitration process.

Sincerely,

Peter L. Aldrich
CEO & General Manager, Stevedoring Services Ltd.

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Articles that link to this one:

  1. Government Files Injunction In Dock Dispute | Bernews.com | December 12, 2012
  1. Family Man says:

    Have the BIU filed their 2011 audited accounts yet or are they still flouting the law?

    What exactly do the four highly paid accountants at the BIU do all day?

    • Y-Gurl says:

      They look for the 2 million that was “loaned” to PHC, gee with that much money I could build a house!

  2. Triangle Drifter says:

    The BIU refuse to acknowledge that there is not enough work to support the number of staff. Been that way for years. Bermuda is one of the most inefficient ports.

    The ship that takes Bermuda workers 2 days to turn around is done in 12 hours at the US port it runs from. Go figure.

    Some years ago in the process of shipping a large item to Bermuda, I had occasion to meet the dock manager at the US port & talk for a bit while watching my cargo being handled. Disbelief was his view at the inefficiency & stranglehold the BIU has on Bermuda.

    The net result is that all the added cost is passed on to the consumer.

    • BdaLuvin says:

      You are correct!!
      I also know that some work 2 hours on and 2 hours off! this is bloody insane!! as a business owner this piss’ me off!!
      I cannot believe people who are uneducated ( no formal education) manual labour have this nasty sense of entitlement that they deserve to get paid a certain amount a week. If there is work you get paid, no work no pay.
      And this video just shows the uneducated leading the uneducated.. this is what is wrong with Bermuda!

  3. Terry says:

    Trinagle, the BIU is the PLP.
    Enough said.

  4. realistic says:

    Shut up triangle drifter

    • Back to Life, Back to Reality says:

      @realistic, pehaps you should be realistic. Terry is telling the truth. Their leaders have often become PLP ministers and it is no secret that the leadership are supportsers of the PLP. Even the building is painted PLP green …LOL.

      Mr. Furbert , you want businesses to work with you, yet you choose the most critical season to cripple businesses to benefit yourself! Some retail businesses coast throughout the year and pay the bills with the hopes that after thanksgiving day the remained of the year will keep them out of the red and in the black! You wouldn’t know anything about that as you have been 10 YEARS behind on your audited books!!!!

    • Triangle Drifter says:

      Stepped on some toes did I?? Would you like a photo I took of my item being handled at that dock since you question that I was even there?

    • RFK JFK MLK says:

      A very intellectual and well-thought post ‘realistic’…

    • Black Gurl says:

      i think its you who needs to shut up @realistic.

      You and Chris Furbert – you did this Furbert….power to the workers, viva 1982, god bless socialism and the PLP.

      I think we need change people.

  5. Argosy says:

    Is Furbert running the dock operations now?

    He is telling SS who to hire, when & where.

    Now we have PM, who can’t find her way out of a wet paper bag, getting stuck in.

    It’s stalling until you-know-what date! We can’t have redundancies before then, so stall by making referrals, spinning words, etc. Any ruse! Same old PLP/BIU failures. This can’t work now that there’s no money around….thanks to you-know-who. Turned around and bit them right on their own ass, didn’t it. Just ask the Colonel for some ideas.

    • Rick Rock says:

      Minister Minors is “monitoring” it. Oh, thank goodness for that. I was hoping someone would “monitor” it.

  6. Mr Furbert of all people know that it is management’s rights to run the Company and if it takes 3 Supervisors then that is what it takes.

    Best guess is they really need more with that lot!!

    Would really hope they could get rid of the lot and hire new staff who know what it is like to be without a full time job let alone getting money for not working!!

  7. Stop Complaining for 1 sec says:

    @ Triangle Drifter
    When you where visiting the port as you would have us to believe, did you notice the equipment being used to load and unload containers as well.
    I have worked at one of the largest shiioping ports in the United Kingdom and believe me, until recently, the dock workers in Bermuda have been behind the eight ball due to the equipment they had to use.
    Its very easy to lay blame on the workers, yet whilst the company that runs the docks, was making millions, they refused to upgrade the equipment.
    I dont know if you remember, but there has been one fatality too many at the dock in Bermuda.

    • MJ says:

      @Stop Complaining for 1 sec.
      I have worked at one of the largest shiioping ports in the United Kingdom and believe me, until recently, the dock workers in Bermuda have been behind the eight ball due to the equipment they had to use.
      Get your head out of Cris Furberts a**. [You already line his pockets].
      Why is it that only desendants of dock workers can get a job there? You must be hurting sooo much. That job is so prime that only family can get employment ? You turn down an offer to stay at home WITH 50% pay during the week day AND still get overtime on the weekend…………. GREEDY BA**A*DS…………….
      BTW why is “Stop Complaining….” going to stop COMPLAINING ?

    • Triangle Drifter says:

      Not every port which serves Bermuda is a large unionized port. Not every port has things like gantry cranes. The port in mind was not much different in dock size or type of equipment used than here.

  8. Oh Boy says:

    Here we go again. And to think the KFC fiasco is coming back up in the new year.

  9. Terry says:

    KFC?
    Silly person.
    You mean CFK.
    Chris Furberts Kitchen……………bwahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

  10. Stop Complaining for 1 sec says:

    @ MJ
    I aint the one complaing, so i suggest you take your words and direct them at the people who complain if the sun doesnt shine when they want it too.
    Maybe just maybe the port workers are like a family run busniess. I dont know. I have NEVER worked there nor have i been through the fence.

    Read what i wrote mate, or are you just picking up the slack for the other complainers.
    Since its XMas season, you can go Fah la la la

  11. Shelta says:

    Case study in how business friendly the PLP can be.

  12. Andrew Little says:

    Poor Lois, Freddie, Julian, Austin, Gilbert, Walter, David, Molly, and dare I say even father Eugene, must be ‘rolling in their graves’… Surely this is not the ‘proud party legacy’ they worked so long and hard for and died for… They fought the good fight of high morals, integrity and justice, but now it all seems lost and abandoned, (10 years later) how far have we strayed?!
    They would be thoroughly embarrassed and ashamed! Randy, Dale, Jennifer, and Paula, what say you in good conscience?!
    Remember ‘we had to deceive you’, ‘I’m just a cog in the wheel’, ‘mock it up’, ‘make it happen’, overspend, overspend, overspend, ‘it’s unethical but not illegal’, sorry but the
    negatives far outweigh the positives… and there’s no such thing as ‘free’, somewhere, somehow we all pay… you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours… severe lack of accountability, justice and leadership… the silence is truly deafening… the children are watching and listening too, what examples are we setting ?! Double standards abound, shameful, shameful, we can do much better to ensure our collective futures!!!
    Please, Lord have mercy on our souls…… time to vote……..

    So….. it took the UBP 40+ years to self destruct, fizzle and become extinct and not to be outdone, now it appears the PLP are in hot pursuit, mimicking a similar performance of scandals, hiccups and alienating themselves from the people, tourists and big business, on a much grander scale.

    Possibly, the two party system needs to be shelved in the annals of history with the dinosaurs.
    A golden opportunity exists for the OBA to amalgamate with the ‘near to be extinct’ PLP, as they did such a great job amalgamating and re-branding with the dormant UBP.

    ‘One party’, of intelligent, gifted, enlightened men and women, young and seasoned, black and white, for the collective benefit of ‘one island’, in spite of our differences and opinions. A ‘win-win’ scenario, no more ‘divide and conquer’, after all, ‘united we stand and divided we fall’.
    The new name could be One United Progressive National Liberal Alliance of Bermuda, or, One United Progressive Democratic Alliance of Bermuda, or, One United Progressive Bermudian Alliance.
    If we can get men on the moon, we can do this too…. it’s so crazy and preposterous it just might work, seriously folks…. consider Bill Gates and his crazy idea, look where it took him!
    We do have the collective intelligence, talent and potential required to accomplish such an awesome feat!
    Time will tell…… time to vote…..

  13. Soooooo says:

    Fire um all…. Let someone work that wants to!!!!!!!!

  14. de ja vodoo says:

    The same people who ruined the hotel industry (motto: Not My Job). Are now running the country!!!

  15. Play Ground says:

    Furbert is not to take all the blame do you know that he told the workers to take the deal and they refused and told him he is their lawyer and he must represent what they want . Also not all of the workers agree to not taking the deal. Its a shame that grown men cant stand on thier own two feet and tell the others that they are silly.

  16. Groundhog says:

    Bermuda docks….two men working, six men standing around watching.

  17. Groundhog says:

    @Playground: “…he [Furbert] told the workers to take the deal and they refused and told him he is their lawyer and he must represent what they want.”

    Since when is Chris Furbert a lawyer? Inquiring minds want to know. The only education listed for him anywhere on-line is Northlands Primary School and various courses in labour related studies.

  18. WTF says:

    They’ll wish they took the deal.