Hamilton workers down tools

  • Corporation workers outside their depot on Canal Road (Photograph by Paul Johnston)

Corporation of Hamilton employees downed tools yesterday afternoon over the “unlawful dismissal” of four union workers, according to the chief shop steward.

Daniel Hayward said the action followed a lunchtime vote by union members.

The workers included members of the garden, sanitation, and engineering departments. Approximately 20 workers blocked the vehicle entrance to the corporation building on Canal Road.

“We’re not leaving the gate until our concerns have been met,” Mr Hayward said.

“Until we feel the Corporation is playing fair.”

According to Mr Hayward, the Corporation’s human resources department is not operating on a level playing field when it comes to mitigating disciplinary action for union members.

The frustration of union members has been “building for years” due to the “disrespect” from HR, he added.

In regards to the dismissal of Garreth Bean, Robert Lee, Delmair Trott and Gregory Wainwright, the union wants a “fair trial by way of a third-party tribunal” to examine the legality of the action, Mr Hayward said. Human resources, he said, are using “stall tactics” in addressing the matter.

According to Mr Hayward, a court decision in favour of one of the dismissed workers had not been respected by the Corporation.

In a release issued yesterday afternoon, the Corporation of Hamilton said the union was being “disingenuous with the facts.”

“Some of these dismissals go back several years,” the Corporation said, adding that the union was aware of the “extreme efforts” being made to work collaboratively on labour issues.

“The Corporation vehemently denies the accusation and categorically states that it is working with its legal representatives and the chairman of the tribunals to agree a date for preliminary hearings for the two tribunals to be heard under the Labour Disputes Act.

“The Corporation has exercised the right to not accept another tribunal under the Labour Relations Act as the matter has already been addressed via the grievance process with the BIU and Work Force Development.”

According to the Corporation, the stoppage — by approximately 20 per cent of the City’s industrial workforce — follows a meeting yesterday morning between the City and its workers at the Bermuda Industrial Union. “As told to the Corporation by the BIU, the agenda to be discussed at the meeting was regarding work ethic as well as productivity,” the Corporation said.

“In actual fact and later discovered, the meeting was to inform the workers that the City refused to come to the table regarding an ongoing internal labour matter.”

“The workers have decided that based on their four members not being able to get their day in court — because the Corporation of Hamilton is playing some kind of game — this is the result,” Bermuda Industrial Union leader Chris Furbert said of the work stoppage.

The Corporation, he said, has been “ruling with an iron fist”.

“That’s going to stop as of today,” Mr Furbert said.

“I’m making that statement and it’s up to the workers to back up what I am saying to you.”

Other matters of concern to the union at the Corporation of Hamilton also need to be “straightened out and fixed correctly”, Mr Furbert said.

“Mr Chris Furbert has denied to senior management at the Corporation ever telling workers to down tools; that he in fact, instructed them to go back to work,” the Corporation said.

Some of the workers involved in the stoppage work in a division considered an essential service, the Corporation said.

“Management has instructed the staff to return to their duties and that opportunities to question and obtain any information would be made available to them.”

Services will not be impacted by the work stoppage, the City said.