Dock-workers down tools over ‘fired workers’

  • Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, speaks with protesters at Hamilton docks (Photograph by Owain Johnston-Barnes)
  • Photograph by Akil Simmons
  • Photograph by Owain Johnston-Barnes

Dock-workers were locked in union talks yesterday after staff downed tools on Tuesday night, and others staged a morning protest amid claims that a dozen workers had been fired.

The workers later marched to the Bermuda Industrial Union headquarters for a five-hour meeting with management — at the end of which it was announced that staff were heading back to the job.

One source told The Royal Gazette that the workers had downed tools after a dispute with management and were fired yesterday as a result.

But a statement last night from Polaris Holding Company, the parent company of Stevedoring Services, which operates the docks, said that “no jobs were lost and everything is back to normal”.

The company described the matter as “an ongoing personnel situation”.

Meetings were called after a group of more than 20 dock-workers — many still wearing reflective safety jackets — gathered in the morning near the entrance to the docks on Front Street with a cardboard banner that said: “12 dock workers fired today!!”

Staff had downed tools the night before while working on the cargo ship Somers Isles, delaying the vessel’s departure yesterday.

At 5pm, a joint statement from Chris Furbert, BIU president, and Warren Jones, chief executive of Polaris, said “resolution to the matter was achieved”.

Talks involved the Port Workers Division of the BIU with a management team and senior union executives.

The meetings came after protesters were met on the street at about 9.45am by Mr Furbert and other union officials.

Police on motorcycles also attended, although there was no sign of tension.

The protesters declined to comment when approached by The Royal Gazette, but one indicated the action was not a strike.

The group walked to BIU headquarters at 11am and left the union headquarters as a group of about 50 at 4.10pm.

Throughout the day, the workers would occasionally emerge for breaks, with some voicing frustration at the length of the discussions.

Polaris Holding Company’s statement said the meetings came after “an incident which occurred last evening on the docks”.

Mr Jones did not elaborate, citing the company’s privacy policy for staff.

The company statement closed: “We apologise for any inconvenience caused but believe that the talks we held today will serve to ensure that our relationship stays on the right footing going forward.”