Activist files police complaint against BIU

  • Seeking answers: Raymond Russell Sr.

    Seeking answers: Raymond Russell Sr.
    ((Photo by Mark Tatem))

Community activist Raymond Russell is calling for an investigation into the accounts of the Bermuda Industrial Union, accusing organisation chiefs of financial mismanagement.

And the ardent supporter of worker’s rights — who has now filed a police complaint against the union — has refuted a BIU claim that it has provided an annual return for inspection by the Registrar General up to 2010. The return includes an audited statement of receipts, funds and effects of each trade union.

In July, Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy revealed that one union had not submitted its annual returns since 1997 “due to technical and organisational challenges”.

The BIU denied that it was the union responsible, claiming that it was only behind in filing returns by two years — 2010 and 2011.

But yesterday Mr Russell pointed out that, while BIU returns have been filed in recent years, the union had failed to file returns for several years from 1997. That gap made all subsequent returns void, Mr Russell claimed.

And he questioned why Government seemed unwilling to now launch a probe into BIU finances, claiming that union bosses were being allowed to “take advantage” of the membership. Mr Fahy has previously stated that his Ministry “is satisfied that the unions are indeed making good progress in addressing the issue of outstanding accounts”.

“My concern is that the present executive has taken advantage of the membership and should be removed,” Mr Russell said.

“They are overpaid and yet pay out very little to their membership in terms of benefits. The union has an uninformed membership and, as a result, they are not getting the benefits that they should be entitled to. “In these hard economic times we have poor, working people who have paid into the union all these years and they’re told to go and get help from Financial Services.”

Mr Russell said he has now filed a complaint with white-collar crime detectives, demanding an investigation into the union’s finances.

Two years ago Mr Russell, a long-time BIU critic, demanded to know how the union’s cash assets had plummeted from $1.5 million to just $75,000 in five years.

And he also questioned what happened to $3.18 million which he said was unaccounted for at the union’s wholly owned subsidiary Union Asset Holdings in 2007-08.

“I am very disappointed that Minister Fahy does not feel that he needs to take the union to task over this issue,” Mr Russell said yesterday.

Mr Fahy could not be reached for comment by press time last night, while the BIU did not respond to an e-mail request for reaction.

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