Workers Picket & Unload Essential Cargo Only

August 31, 2020 | 6 Comments

[Updated + Written by Don Burgess]

Dockworkers only unloaded essential cargo today, and Bermuda Industrial Union [BIU] president Chris Furbert and the stevedoring union are meeting with the management of Stevedoring Services Limited this afternoon to discuss the matter.

“This is in light what transpired over the weekend,” Mr Furbert told Bernews, “The management team decided to hire what we’re going to call scab labour – that’s what I am going to refer to them as – to do some mechanical work on the weekend.”

Mr Fubert said these mechanics did some work on the cranes and some of the machines.

He said when the unionized staff showed up to work this morning, “they were not happy that the management team would see fit to hire people to work down there during overtime hours. This has never happened in the history of the docks relationship.”

He added the workers voted this morning only to unload essential cargo – such as refrigerated items, medical supplies, and animal feed – “and once those items are unloaded, they’ve down tools.”

Mr Fubert said the 4 pm meeting would be between Stevedoring Services, the workers, Gabriel Cann, the labour relations manager, and Labour Minister Jason Hayward.

“We’re going to see if we can find a resolution,” Mr Furbert said. “If we can’t, it will be another story.”

He said he hopes to find out the answers to why management hired people to work on the machines and the crane on the weekend, and whether or not they intend to do it again.

Bernews also asked for comment from Polaris Holding Company, the parent company of Stevedoring Services, and will update as able.

Update 7.07pm: A Government spokesperson said, “The Ministry of Labour is aware of the industrial dispute between Stevedoring Services Limited and the Bermuda Industrial Union.”

Speaking to the matter, the Minister of Labour Jason Hayward said, “The Government’s aim is to have the parties engage in mediation. In the meantime, I can confirm that essential goods are being offloaded. We are hopeful that a resolution can be achieved as soon as possible.”

Update Sept 1, 1.05pm: Scene outside the Hamilton Docks

Update: A SSL spokesperson said, “On 27 May, as part of negotiations between the Portworkers Division of the Bermuda Industrial Union [PWD] and Stevedoring Services Limited [SSL], we proposed to outsource our garage which costs us approximately $840K per year in payroll and benefits.

“Between 27 May and 5 August, we received no response from the PWD regarding a resumption of negotiations meetings notwithstanding communication to the President and Secretary of the PWD and the Organizer for the PWD Mr. Arnold Smith.

“Between 27 May and 5 August, SSL’s financial situation deteriorated significantly. Financial projections of a 10 – 15% decline in cargo volumes, were actually 25% in container volume and 43% in breakbulk cargo. A situation that threatens SSL’s ability to meet payroll.

“Responding to the critical nature of the decline, I acted to implement the proposals put forward in negotiations and that management believed and still believe will sustain the Company into the future and preserve the greatest number of employees possible.

“It was not until 12 August that the PWD returned to the negotiating table. At that time they apologized for not communicating and I communicated to them that in the interim, I had commenced negotiations with a vendor for the outsourcing of the garage and was committed to that direction because the Company’s situation had deteriorated significantly from the date of our last meeting in May.

“On Friday 14 August, the Union made proposals that in their view could address the situation. I advised them that I did not view their proposals as sustainable as we are looking at a period of two to three years before or even if, there will be a turnaround in the situation.

“In a letter dated 18 August, Garage employees were given notice of redundancy and a calculation on their payout. Additionally, they were invited to advise management if they were interested in having an opportunity for employment with the proposed new vendor.

“To date, three out of six employees have requested redundancy payments and have either terminated or will shortly terminate their employment and one has requested to be interviewed by the new vendor. Therefore, there are two garage staff who at this time have not indicated their position.

“As a result of our commitment to outsource the garage, on 17 August, SSL was officially informed of the implementation of an overtime ban by the PWD to take effect on Monday 24 August.

“Noting a significant amount of equipment not repaired during the week of 24 August, some of it having been idle since March due to staff adhering to our Covid Contingency plan and also observing a concerted effort by staff to slow down the ship working operation, Ihired an outside vendor to work on the weekend to ensure that we would have equipment available for operations effective Monday morning 31 August.

“On Monday 31 August, noting the equipment which had been repaired, the PWD requested to know who repaired it and demanded that SSL staff be paid for the weekend work. Both requests were declined.

“A meeting took place amongst the PWD members where at its conclusion, management was informed that once essential goods were discharged from the Oleander [ship] staff would be “downing tools.”

“At approximately 2:45 p.m., work on the ship stopped and stevedores left the dock. However, equipment operators remained on the dock to ensure that essential goods were delivered.

“Today, staff are picketing based on our decision to outsource the garage and due to outside staff being hired on the weekend to do work that, some of which, should/could have been done by them.”

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Comments (6)

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  1. Bobby Jones says:

    Dock workers only unloaded refrigerated containers and left them all over until 3:30 when they then stacked them so that they could be plugged in. NONE of these left the dock.

    Shame on the BIU for putting Bermudians in peril for their own benefit.

    Shame on the Government for letting this happen.

    • wahoo says:

      Saw one guy picketing today holding a sign that said something about Trump….what the hell does Trump have to with anything?

  2. Excellent PLP says:

    Just what we need! A strike during a pandemic and an election! We can’t get our business started now because our non perishable goods are on the ******** dock and these union workers won’t help us out!! That’s the last straw for me. I am closing my business and firing Bermudians. All PLP and BIU fault!

  3. K says:

    Why can’t the workers have discussions before they down tools? It is such a negative way to act. Action before knowledge doesn’t make sense.

  4. Pissant says:

    this should be really good. Mr Hayward what side you gonna take, or is CF running the show ?? Essential service comes to mind. WE ARE IN A PANDEMIC, do not hold us hostage> he couldn’t run a business if life depended on it NO CLUE

  5. up D Hill says:

    There go the BIU again being childish and petty showing their inability to do anything helpful to Bermuda. Step aside Furbert time for you to go out to pasture and hack around a golf course or something.

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