BIU: it’s the airport cost that we objected to

  • Airport protest: clashes outside the House in December 2016 (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

The Bermuda Industrial Union was never opposed to the airport redevelopment project, the union’s president claimed yesterday.

Chris Furbert said: “Let’s just be clear, because I think that, somehow or the other, [Craig] Cannonier and the One Bermuda Alliance, and some of the other people ... would have you believe that we’ve always been against the airport project.

“We have always been against the cost of the new airport project.”

However, the statement was in apparent contradiction to his earlier opposition to the airport plan, which he said was “a very bad deal” and put the island “at the disposal of foreigners”.

At a Labour Day banquet in 2016, he said that the “people of Bermuda have yet to see how this whole arrangement will benefit Bermuda and its people”.

Mr Furbert added that the public-private partnership with the Canadian Commercial Corporation and developers Aecon was not what the people of Bermuda wanted for the airport.

He said: “The people have spoken and their voices continue to go unheard.

“This is a very bad deal for Bermuda.

“Once again Bermuda labour is at the disposal of foreigners.”

A protest against the OBA government-backed redevelopment in December 2016 turned violent when police officers clashed with demonstrators who blocked entry to the House of Assembly.

Officers used pepper spray on the crowd outside Sessions House.

The protest was backed by the BIU and the People’s Campaign, of which Mr Furbert was a leader.

Mr Furbert later dismissed the findings of the Blue Ribbon Panel, which concluded the airport project was a good deal.

He said: “The panel was appointed by the Minister of Finance; as a result it was going to get the result he was looking for.”

Mr Furbert said that Bermuda should be “incensed by this deal”.

He added: “This should be a concern to every construction worker in the country.”

Mr Furbert hit out yesterday after Craig Cannonier, the leader of the One Bermuda Alliance, claimed last week that the Progressive Labour Party had “tried to shut down” the airport project.

Mr Cannonier said: “The hypocrisy and the irony that this government now is full-heartedly embracing the airport — I’m saying to Bermudians ... exercise your discernment when you see these things.”

Mr Cannonier was speaking after the completion of the airport’s new terminal building was marked with a roof-wetting ceremony.

Zane DeSilva, the Minister of Tourism and Transport, Lawrence Scott, the Government Whip, and Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, took part in the event.

Mr Furbert yesterday highlighted the OBA’s opposition to a public-private partnership redevelopment at the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, which opened in 2014.

He said: “Let’s just rewind the clock back a little bit — because my understanding was the hospital project was started under the PLP government.”

Mr Furbert said Bob Richards, former shadow finance minister, had expressed concerns about the hospital deal while the OBA was in Opposition.

He added: “Two years later, his government is down there for the opening ceremony for the hospital.”

The acute care wing at the hospital was the island’s first public-private partnership.

The airport deal won the 2017 North American Deal of the Year at a ceremony in New York last year organised by London-based IJGlobal Magazine, a leading specialist publication in project finance and construction.