Electricity Union Explains Work-To-Rule Action

October 6, 2018 | 28 Comments

Electricity Supply Trade Union [ESTU] President Donald Lottimore has moved to clarify the situation surrounding the Union’s current work to rule, explaining that the ESTU “take safety concerns very seriously,” and in an emergency they “have crews who are willing and able to respond.”

“The crews will not carry out any repairs but will ensure that all measures, as it relates to safety, are completed,” he said. “Crews have been responding to emergency calls and have been making them safe which, unfortunately at this time, does not necessarily mean that power will be reinstated to the customer.”

The ESTU also noted there is a register of Medically Essential Service Customers, and the Union have “committed to responding to any incident as it relates to customers on this list.”

“What BELCO has conveniently not shared with the community is that their current plans for staffing levels beginning January 2019 are actually less than what they are presently categorizing as unsafe in their statements to the public concerning this work-to-rule action,” the ESTU added.

Background Summary

The issue began after BELCO’s parent company Ascendant Group announced the “departure” of four senior executives — Denton Williams, Michael Daniel, Carol Ross-DeSilva & Zehena Davis — saying that ”two have resigned and two positions were made redundant.”

The four executives marked the second group of employees to leave the company recently, with three staff members having been made redundant last month.

On Thursday, BELCO workers gathered outside the building, and later that day Union officials confirmed that the ESTU “will be instituting a work-to-rule and demand the immediate reinstatement of the four qualified, displaced Bermudians.”

“This is the second time in the last 3 weeks that the ESTU had to call an emergency meeting with its members triggered by the displacement of Bermudians from the Company,” BTUC President Jason Hayward said.

“Over the past 3 years, approximately 20 qualified Bermudians were let go and the current actions of the Board and CEO seems to be ‘the straw that broke the camel’s back.’ Workers are genuinely concerned about their job security and want clarity on the Company’s direction moving forward,” he added.

In a statement yesterday, the Ascendant Board “said they welcome the opportunity to meet with the ESTU and Government expeditiously to discuss the current situation at the company. The Board will be reaching out to the ESTU and the Government shortly to agree a mutually convenient time to meet.”

ESTU Statement

Mr Lottimore said, “We, the Electricity Supply Trade Union [ESTU], are engaged in a work-to-rule action with Ascendant Group Limited, which began on Thursday evening, October 4, 2018, when we served notice on the Board of Directors of Ascendant.

“The company has issued multiple statements. It is unfortunate that the reports floating around the media today do not accurately frame the events as they are unfolding. We would like to address the public directly on behalf of our members.

“At all times the workers of the ESTU take safety concerns very seriously. The community can be assured that we have Grid Operations crews ready to attend to confirmed emergencies. Our focus on safety encompasses all of Bermuda.

“In regards to the statement that plant operations are being compromised by the inability to staff the plant appropriately, the ESTU has repeatedly previously highlighted the erosion of staffing levels in the plant as a significant safety concern to BELCO management.

“What BELCO has conveniently not shared with the community is that their current plans for staffing levels beginning January 2019 are actually less than what they are presently categorizing as unsafe in their statements to the public concerning this work-to-rule action.

“Further, with respect to their assertion that the plant is understaffed solely as a consequence of the ESTU’s work-to-rule action, we simply point out that BELCO is engaged in the systematic reduction of staffing coverage by way of restrictions on weekend work in various departments whose responsibility it is to maintain reliability of the system.

“The ESTU must address the statement from the Board that they are ready to begin discussions in earnest to resolve our concerns. These overtures have an unwritten caveat that the Board is not willing to entertain the reinstatement of the 4 Bermudian employees or the removal of the CEO and CFO.

“Furthermore, the letter we received from the Chairman of the Board was forwarded after 6pm on Friday, October 5, 2018. The entire ESTU Council and its full membership were onsite at BELCO for the entire day. The leadership of both organizations who could begin discussions were literally within a minute’s walk from each other and the Board did not take advantage of the opportunity.

“What the Board clearly did not know is at the same time that they were making their decision, the ESTU was clarifying a few concerns with the line managers before we left the BELCO site at 5pm. This demonstrates we have maintained open lines of communication with line managers.

“When the Board replied declining to entertain critical demands, we gave this news to the line managers so that they could understand our actions. Unfortunately, this demonstrates that the Board is working independently of its own managers and against what would secure supply for Bermuda.

“The letter from the Chairman, Mr. Durhager JP, also states ‘It is unknown if the Government will grant relief on the $30 million we pay in fuel taxes and duty so that leaves labour as the only relevant variable cost that can be reduced.’

“We will resist this attempt by the Board to conflate its tax dispute with the government with the working conditions within BELCO that have lead to this work-to-rule action.

“We object to this attempt to use the livelihood of workers of the company as a pawn to coerce the government to change the fuel tax structure. We understand that it is an important issue. However, it is not the focus of our concerns or our demands and we will not allow the Board to co-opt our agenda.

“We, the ESTU, are currently on a work-to-rule action and hereby give formal notice that we support the company as it relates to ensuring that the public is safe.

“As such once BELCO senior personnel have been to a call and deemed it an emergency, we have crews who are willing and able to respond. The crews will not carry out any repairs but will ensure that all measures, as it relates to safety, are completed.

“BELCO Service Rules, released on November 1, 2010, speaks to a register of Medically Essential Service Customers. We, the ESTU, have committed to responding to any incident as it relates to customers on this list.

“It is imperative to note that the crews have been responding to emergency calls and have been making them safe which, unfortunately at this time, does not necessarily mean that power will be reinstated to the customer.

“To the people and the Government of Bermuda, we thank you for your continued support during this trying time for our country.”

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Comments (28)

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  1. Jus' Askin' says:

    You can not punish a company…
    …by saving them monies ;-) ;-)

    • 2 Bermudas says:

      De oligarchy has generators while de rest of us live off BurtCoin and titty milk. Let that sink im for a bit!! Ha ha ha!!

      • Jus' Askin' says:

        “…no one person holds all the answers…” ;-) ;-)

        • 2 Bermudas says:

          Yup, everyone wants cheap electricity but then when management starts addressing it people don’t like it. Bermudians always want someone else to pay, but that is not the real world!!

          • Jus' Askin' says:

            I will now ask
            what is the ‘real world’?
            because
            “Bermuda is Another World…” :-D

  2. Family Man says:

    “Crews have been responding to emergency calls and have been making them safe which, unfortunately at this time, does not necessarily mean that power will be reinstated to the customer.”

    Disconnecting power to a downed cable and refusing to reconnect it is NOT work to rule. It’s refusing to do your job. We do not support you.

    • Gone are the days when employers can treat workers like S!@# and do as they please.
      From 400 years of working for FREE to we have a right to protest when being unjustly treated is progress.

    • Anonymous says:

      Workers are not required to work over 40 hours per week. That is work to rule. The cables will get done first thing Monday morning. Just say thank you for ensuring safety concerns are addressed. Cause you sure not getting out of your bed at 3am in the poring rain to do it.

      • 7 day a week business says:

        Belco is a 7 day a week business. That means regular staff work wed- sun or tues – sat or mon – fri etc.
        Typical uninformed outdated mentality to assume everyone works mon-fri and the weekend are “overtime”.
        Repairing outages are normal day to day work for Belco, even on the weekends. Refusing and saying you are “working to rule” should get you a warning, followed by further disciplinary action. You have a job to do and are paid very well by all of us your customers. I do not support this action .

        • Anonymous says:

          You are ill informed my friend. No job is 24/7. The employment act states 40 hours per week. BELCO workers besides, shift workers who do not work on the lines, work 8-5 Monday to Friday. No one can be forced to work more than that. This isn’t slavery.

  3. Daren says:

    Belco is a joke

  4. Shareholders need to take action says:

    So management is planning on reducing staffing levels even further but when the union works to rule suddenly management warns that the electricity supply could be impacted because the current employees won’t work overtime? Really? The Board of Directors need to realize that every right thinking person can see through this scare tactic. One has to ask is the CEO planning on reducing staffing levels so he can outsource to his ‘friends and family’ overseas? If the Board approved or is planning on approving such a plan, the shareholders need to remove this Board.

  5. Something needs to happen these businesses think they can do as the like. Treat locals like crap, bring in there friends pay them more than the locals. And we are suppose to sit back and let in continue? People are tired of being treated l8ke second class citizens. Two board of directors are executives at the establishment that recently let 13 people go. All of which were very long serving Bermudians. Nothing said most of the work was passed onto expat workers. Very unfortunate what is happening to us locals.

    • LaV says:

      “People are tired of being treated l8ke second class citizens. ”

      Funny. The PLP election platform has created a second class of Bermudian, by removing the right to marriage for some. This is what bermuda wants, it’s what we voted for. Bermudians love to discriminate and then cry the victim.

  6. FTU says:

    just double talk spin from the union they give a rats a__ about public, your paid to connect a line do it safely or just throw the fuse in the name of safety

  7. Jt says:

    The former employees were not union members. The union may not like managements’s decisions but is there something that has been done by management which is contrary to the union’s CBA? If so the union should state what it is. At the moment it is only the union acting contrary to the terms they agreed to. It seems an illegal industrial action.

  8. Lights says:

    So the most expensive utility company in the world is mad at the taxes they pay, and now we must bend to their will. I get it solar power is in my near future

    • One Who Escaped says:

      Don’t get to excited. PLP will pass legislation saying you can’t put up solar panels.

  9. Question says:

    If the government insists on taxing the crap out of a company, it can hardly complain when that company takes the necessary steps so that it can actually pay those taxes.

    High taxes cost jobs. They stifle businesses. They lead to cost-cutting. There is no particular mystery to it.

    • Angus says:

      Cost cutting is not the issue. Targeting Bermudians in your cost cutting, and taking retaliatory actions against Bermudians that is troubling. Where in the world would this be allowed without anyone saying anything?

      • Question says:

        They’re not taking actions against Bermudians. They are organising a company so that it meets its tax obligations, while investing in machinery and enduring our electricity supply.
        You all complain about your electricity prices.
        High taxes cost jobs because they force taxpayers to reduce expenditure somewhere else. That is exactly what is happenning here.
        If you want high taxes, STFU when jobs get cut. It’s the choice you frikkin made.

  10. Codfish says:

    So, I regularly find myself on the side of the business in these disputes because they’ve made necessary decisions to survive, and sometimes long serving employees are so resistant to progress that they end up stifling the company, and I do genuinely believe that most businesses are trying to attract and retain good Bermudians. I just feel like this is not the case for Ascendant at the moment and instead of trying to work with the existing senior team they are just pushing them out. I know that there are so many other people worried about job security there at the moment. I have a lot of concerns about Ascendant which has always been a highly Bermudian company. I support the actions of the ESTU.

    • Alan says:

      Totally agreed.

      Something like this would never happen in say a Swiss or Swedish firm. Rather, everything would be done with quality in mind, much as has been the case in the Belco of the last couple decades. Instead, we have a bunch of newly arrived carpetbaggers out to screw anybody who sees it differently. I’m with you this time Unions.

      • Alan says:

        Also, sometimes it makes more sense changing the management than the workers… the latter are needed which their specialist skills to keep things working, the number crunching executives are a dime a dozen. The agenda can be revisited later in a less abrasive manner.

        • JAYBIRD says:

          Fair enough so what category did the four that lost their jobs fall into – number crunching executives or specialized skilled workers? Their titles sounded rather suspect to me…

  11. Jus’ Sayin’ says:

    Mr Durhager is asking for relief from the 30 million in Govt taxes? I am sure that the tax is a broken out line item that is on my bill each month that I pay. I’m not sure how Belco can ask for relief from a tax that is passed on to the consumer, unless they plan to pass on the relief too.

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