Staff walked off the job and blocked entry to the island’s biggest hardware store yesterday in a protest over cuts to their health insurance.
Employees shut the gates at Gorham’s on St John’s Road, Pembroke, at 11.45am and told customers that the store would be closed for the day.
Unionised workers said the walkout was sparked by a reduction in health coverage.
Representatives from the Bermuda Industrial Union held talks with management during the afternoon and the shop was reopened by about 3pm.
Rosetta Gilbert, the shop steward for Gorham’s staff, said employee dental and vision insurance had been cut without consultation with staff.
The move came despite a petition against the decision last week.
Staff said they were told in a memo from Andrew Mackay, the store’s general manager, on June 26 that the insurance cut, which would be imposed on
July 1, was needed because of rising premiums.
The memo said that the cuts would save the company $550 per employee a year.
But the member of staff who showed the memo to The Royal Gazette claimed that the company was “making money hand over fist”.
Another staff member said the insurance cut was imposed without any discussion.
The woman added: “They didn’t even give us a choice. I’m sitting out here with a toothache. What am I supposed to do? Decide what bills I’m going to pay?”
Arnold Smith, the research officer at the BIU, said that alterations to healthcare arrangements required consultation.
He said: “In this instance, the way forward for them has been somewhat dictatorial concerning health insurance.”
Police directed traffic on St John’s Road as staff formed a picket line to prevent customers from entering.
An unidentified member of Gorham’s staff earlier told the striking employees they could not shut the gates and reopened them.
Strikers said about 40 Gorham’s staff were union members.
Mr Mackay did not respond to a request for comment, but Ms Gilbert said discussions with the management were continuing.