Column: Hamilton Docks, Essential Service

December 21, 2020 | 11 Comments

[Opinion column written by MP Michael Dunkley]

On Friday December 11th during a busy session in Parliament one of the Bills debated was the Trade Union and Labor Relations [Consolidation] Act 2020.

The Bill consolidated the Trade Union Act 1965, the Labor Relations Act 1975 and the Labor Disputes Act 1992. It also established an Employment and Labor Relations Code in respect of trade unions, labor relations and employment matters, and provides general reforms and civil penalties.

The OBA Opposition generally supported the Bill but had reservations in some areas which we spoke to and we tabled an amendment to Schedule 3, Essential Services.

In Schedule 3 those services that are deemed as Essential are listed. This schedule is lifted from the First Schedule of the Labor Relations Act 1975 with such essential services as Electricity, Hospital and Nursing, Fire, Air and Marine Traffic Control among others making a total of 16. In addition in the new consolidated act internet services and prisons and corrections are also deemed essential.

The Opposition concern centered around clause 11 of Schedule 3 which refers to our docks and states that the following is also considered essential “The loading and unloading of mail, medical supplies, foodstuffs, cattle and chicken feed and all supplies needed to maintain and essential service herein and the transport of such goods to their proper destination.”

A look at the Christmas lights and the Hamilton docks this month

City-of-Hamilton-Bermuda-docks Christmas-lights-decorations-Decemver-2020-JM-5

Seems reasonable right?

Perhaps in 1975 but not in 2020.

This clause in the 1975 Act was lifted into the 2020 Consolidated Act. Unfortunately it is now not effective in preserving a critical essential service, our Hamilton Docks.

Here is why.

First, a lot has changed in the transport and movement of freight since 1975 when bulk loaded cargo was prevalent but has since given way to container cargo.

More importantly, the biggest change impacting the ability of the docks to be considered an essential service is that the Act in 1975 did not contemplate 9/11 and the resulting change by the US after the terrorist attack that any ship leaving a US port cannot re-enter US waters with the same cargo. This US legislation forces the vessels to stay in Bermuda until they are fully discharged.

This means that if there is a labor dispute or illegal work stoppage on our docks, the stevedores unload the “essential” cargo but leave the rest of the cargo on the ship.

Since the ship cannot return to the US until all freight is unloaded it is stuck in port here until the dispute is resolved. The resulting knock on effect is that all ships run late, product all across the island is unavailable and costs rise due to additional overtime and additional fuel consumption as the ships try to make up time when they can leave.

Three weeks ago we witnessed the three freighters that service Bermuda all in port at one time and playing musical ships as essential cargo was unloaded from one requiring the movement of the others!

A video pan of three ships on the docks last month

To help solve this problem the OBA proposed an amendment that read “The unloading and complete discharge of all ships, the loading of empty containers for return voyage and the transport of essential goods to their proper destination.”

This amendment would have served the purpose of making the docks an essential service and not a loophole to be manipulated.

Sadly, the PLP Government did not accept the amendment. Minister Hayward in his brief reply to it said that while it may be logical the government can’t support the amendment.

The PLP have said they govern for all people. Not supporting this amendment clearly demonstrates otherwise. The PLP is comfortable for illegal work stoppages to continue, for costs to continue to rise due to this type of action and for Bermudians to suffer the consequences.

- Michael Dunkley

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Comments (11)

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  1. Ringmaster says:

    “Minister Hayward in his brief reply to it said that while it may be logical the government can’t support the amendment”. Why not? If it’s logical to do so, why not look after all of Bermuda’s population rather than a handful of dock workers? Isn’t that what Governments are supposed to do? At the same time, there was an amendment to the charitable giving of Union dues to have 50% paid to the Union. So the wealthy BIU gets more money to pay management salaries, probably so they can have an increase, and needy charities go with less at a time they need more. Looking after the haves and telling the have nots to eat cake, if they can afford it.

  2. Agreed says:

    I don’t always agree with Mr. Dunkley, but he is spot on in this opinion piece. We all become hostages each time their is a dispute. How is electricity more an essential service than food?

    • sandgrownan says:

      Dunkley is spot on, but really what do we expect. His Worshipfulness David Burt of High Office himself, is on record as saying the PLP march in ideological lockstep with the unions.

      That means, ladies and gentlemen, that unions will never ever be held accountable, we will always be held to ransom by the unions, and you can expect more tantrums and stomping of feet when they get their own way.

  3. wahoo says:

    So we have the PLP to thank for future ransoming of the population every time a dockworker feels “disrespected”. Makes sense for the PLP to say as little about this as possible they need to be careful when it comes to striking workers and a inconvenienced population already struggling to achieve normalcy. I think they will find that there is little sympathy in public domain for these illegal strikes if they bothered to listened to the average Bermudian…..but 30-6 right?

    • LOL says:

      You obaUBPERSS are now 5 clueless and 1 jet gate. The PEOPLE are not voting for you anymore and the SOURMILK needs to get over his lost.

      • Wahoo says:

        As usual you off topic and putting up a childlike comment. Plp have dumbed you down to a hollow vote.

  4. Hmm says:

    We are years from elections. They can vote any way they like right now. Nothing like living without consequences… Why not just ignore the very people who elected them into office. Pathetic!

  5. Cedar Stump says:

    Privatize the docks

    • sandgrownan says:

      They are already but held to ransom by the union. Fire them all, and make them re-apply for their jobs.

  6. What's new says:

    There seems to be no respite for this country and its people. the TUC(OOP! BIU) already has the PLP by the b??? It looks like we should just get used to the idea that if we want anything done just ask the BIU and if it agrees, it will be done.
    I thought that the 30-6 was for the people by the people. It is more of for the unions and by the unions. Who does this change in legislation benefit???
    The PLP continues to get it all WRONG and ALL of us SUFFER.

  7. What's new says:

    Same old same old. The TUC(BIU) is in charge. Still got the PLP by the B???? If you need or want something done, just ask the union. If the union agrees, then you will get what you want.
    Who does this change benefit anyone or body but the BIU?
    I thought that 30-6 was for the people by the people.
    The PLP has it all wrong again and ALL WILL SUFFER.
    Legislation needs to tighten up on the unions(in particular the BIU). How long are we to continue to be held hostage by union behaviour and attitudes???

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