An over reaction: updated

A video of a press conference with the BIU President Chris Furbert today:

One quote that stands out is: “If you think yesterday was bad, it can get a whole lot worse.”

UPDATE: This is from the CEO of the Tourism Authority: In the last few days, Bermuda’s labour unrest has been seen in the world’s media. We have already had e-mails from potential investors expressing concern.”


It’s impossible to sit here and not write about the current industrial action by BIU members over the sacking of some of its members from the Fairmont Hamilton Princess.

First, it has to be said that if protocol exists, then it should be followed and if the management did not adhere to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, then they were wrong and should acknowledge that. They should then start the process again.

You should not enter into an agreement only to throw it out when it suits you.

Secondly, the issue has been sent to arbitration, which is binding. So why is industrial action continuing? The BIU cries foul that the CBA has not been followed, but it is not following the arbitration protocol. You cannot have it both ways.

Thirdly, I think the BIU has totally over-reacted. While there may have been some sympathy towards the staff at the Hamilton hotel exercising their rights and expressing their displeasure over the sackings, there is no excuse for others to also take industrial action.

In a previous life, I talked about exercising commonsense to make sure disputes were solved quickly and amicably – the last thing this country needs is more strife. It needs a common partnership to get things moving again.

I have not changed my stance. I sit here amazed that there were no buses or ferries operating this morning and that members of the BIU were prepared to let the rest of the country suffer in such a way.

I also shuddered when I saw this quote from BIU President Chris Furbert: “This organisation was built for us by our forefathers, we are the current caretakers, and we are going to make sure that we have this [the union]. First of all have this for our children, and our children’s children.”

While I support 100 percent the rights of workers and the right to be represented by a union, which is there to protect its members, this quote from Mr Furbert misses a vital point: unless we work together, unless we exercise our commonsense (the hotel included), if we continue to take action such as we are seeing today, our children’s children will have an extremely bleak future.

On another note, the Finance Minister was reported as saying: “The glide path that we are intending to follow is actually more aggressive that SAGE’s. While SAGE was being more aggressive two or three years down the road, we are being more aggressive now.”

The industrial action now is over five hotel workers. It does not augur well for the future.

UPDATE: Jonathan Starling has pointed out (see comments) that the hotel is also bound by arbitration and that it should take the sacked workers back. I agree. As I said protocol is there and it should be followed.
I stick by my assertion however, that this is still an over-reaction by the union.

4 thoughts on “An over reaction: updated

Add yours

  1. Good morning,

    Arbitration works by putting both parties back to the status quo that existed prior to the dispute. In order for the arbitration process to being HamPrincess needs to reinstate all the workers that were made redundant. The BIU cannot in good faith begin the arbitration process before that is done – it would jeopardise all future arbitration processes going forward, giving an advantage to the employers over the employees.

    Worker solidarity across different divisions and workplaces is perfectly fine, indeed, it is quite often necessary. While the current dispute appears to be just about the HamPrincess issue it has to be seen as just the final straw of ever-increasing hostility towards labour by capital and management. This was just the final straw that lit the fire that all these little pin-pricks have been building up. Solidarity on this case sends a message to the entire bosses class that this is not going to be tolerated any further – and puts the pressure on HamPrincess to correct themselves and deal with this issue properly.

    It is not the workers who are over-reacting – if anything they’ve been too timid for too long. The over-reaction is displayed by the intransigence and aggressive moves by HamPrincess.

  2. I understand your point about the arbitration process and thank you for pointing that out. I agree that if that is the case, the hotel should take them back until the situation is sorted out. But it does not take away from my main point that I do think this is an over-reaction. Unions can be strong without resorting to disrupting the lives of those who have nothing to do with the dispute.

  3. I agree that there are alternative tactics that can be used, and I don’t always agree with this or that tactic or strategy – although I stand with the workers regardless (I just point out how I think things could be done differently at the same time).

    Having said that, nothing tactically or strategically wrong with cross-worker solidarity. It’s one of the few weapons at the disposal of the workers in this ongoing class war. And one of the strongest. How it’s deployed can be done differently of course…

    Anyway, this particular battle appears to be temporarily resolved at least. Plenty other battles looming.

  4. Not only was there “no excuse” for others to take industrial action, per section 34(1) of the Labour Relations Act ( it was unlawful for them to do so:

    “Unlawful lock-outs, strikes

    34 (1) It is hereby declared that any lock-out, strike or irregular industrial action short of a strike shall be unlawful if—

    (a) it has any object other than or in addition to the furtherance of a labour dispute *within the trade or industry in which the strikers, persons taking irregular industrial action short of a strike or employers locking-out, as the case may be, are engaged*”

    (emphasis mine)

    It’s depressing to see the BIU rewarded, again, for breaking the law.

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