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Bermuda Industrial Union trio to appeal costs ruling

By Matthew Taylor, The Bermuda Gazette, 12 may 2000

The Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU) trio at the centre of a dock court case is to appeal after landing a legal bill believed to stretch well into six figures yesterday.

Puisne Judge Vincent Meerabux ruled that BIU president Derrick Burgess, first vice president Chris Furbert and former Portworkers Division president Sinclair Smith would have to pay costs after an earlier ruling that the union broke an injunction when they launched an overtime ban. Mr. Burgess revealed that fellow union members might be asked to chip in to help pay the costs. "We will put that issue to the membership," he said.

He added: "We will be appealing tomorrow. This is a very strange decision.

"Normally you have to pay costs but in this case it's court costs plus everything else. We have to pay their preparation time and for their phone calls. The whole case has been strange."

Mr. Burgess said the judge had ruled out an application by BIU lawyer Delroy Duncan to stay the costs until their appeal over the injunction ruling could be heard.

A date was set for that and if the union fails to get a June hearing it will have to wait until November for the next session. Mr. Burgess added: "It's extraordinary the judge makes a ruling against just the three of us - Mr. Furbert, Mr. Smith and myself - when everybody else was named in the hearing."

He feared the bill, which must be paid immediately, could be landing on his desk Monday.

Mr. Burgess added: "I don't know how we are going to pay."

Stevedoring Services lawyer Alan Dunch said the company was very pleased with the result.

He said: "In essence, Mr. Justice Meerabux agreed with us on every point.

"I would like to see the union abide by the terms of the injunction with no further imposition of a general overtime ban, with or without notice.

"And I would like to see the restoration of industrial harmony between Stevedoring Services and its workers." Earlier the three BIU members, named in the legal action, had slammed the private hearing as being unconstitutional for not letting them in to witness it.

Mr. Burgess quoted section six, subsection nine of the Bermuda Constitution which said: "All proceedings instituted in any court for the determination of the existence of any civil right or obligation, including the announcement of the decision of the court, shall be held in public."

Mr. Burgess said, "This is the judge doing this nonsense." However Mr. Dunch countered: "It's entirely a matter for the judge's discretion as to whom he lets into his chambers." Mr.

Burgess, Furbert and Smith had turned up to yesterday's hearing in Supreme Court Four and entered the court room but they left within minutes after saying that something had come up and they needed to go back to the union's headquarters.