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BIU to hold mass meeting

By Matthew Taylor, GazetteNET News, Saturday 12 February 2000

The BIU are to hold a mass membership meeting on Tuesday after being slapped with a contempt of court order for an illegal overtime ban.

The legal action could see BIU President Derrick Burgess, First Vice President Chris Furbert and Portworkers President Sinclair Smith, as well as all 60 or so port workers, having to fork out costs.

They will have to turn up to the Supreme Court on Friday to explain why they should not be punished for breaking a 1998 injunction forbidding them from breaking the Labour Relations Act by banning scheduled overtime.

The union also ducked out of a compulsory tribunal hearing yesterday.

Mr. Burgess is currently on holiday but when he was off the Island in September when a localised building strike widened into an Island-wide action under stand-in leader Chris Furbert.

The union said yesterday that Mr. Burgess had been kept informed of developments.

Asked whether a widening of the dispute was possible BIU lawyer Delroy Duncan said: "No, no, members are concerned about the fact there is a contempt order in relation to what they see as forced overtime.

"They want to discuss it as it is a matter for them to consider everything that is said to them about the contempt order and overtime issue.

"It's them that want this meeting."

Mr. Furbert refused to say why his union had failed to show up for the compulsory arbitration hearing with Tribunal chairman Arlene Brock scheduled for Friday morning.

A Government spokesman said: "Yes, the BIU did miss the meeting this morning.

"The meeting has been adjourned until later this month and we hope they will attend when it resumes."

The spokeswoman said talks were expected to resume on February 28 and 29.

And Ms Brock said: "Arbitration shall continue and I would really prefer not to speak with the press at this time."

On Tuesday Chris Furbert, who is standing in for President Derrick Burgess, said he knew nothing about the Docks overtime ban.

He told The Royal Gazette: "I don't know anything about that. As far as I know everything is fine."

However the Contempt of Court Action states that the ban was put into affect on February 4.

It was not clear yesterday whether the overtime ban would still go ahead when the Oleander arrives on Sunday. Mr. Duncan said: "There is a current legal thing taking place and it would be better to wait until the members have met to discuss this and find out what it's about.

"There is a court hearing so it would be wrong to answer any further questions. It's rather a delicate situation I think we should leave it there."

At Friday's press conference BIU General Secretary Molly Burgess said: "A general membership meeting of the BIU has been called for Tuesday, February 15, at 11 a.m. at BIU Headquarters to inform them about an impending Supreme Court proceeding against union officials concerning overtime.

"All members are urged to attend."

It is expected that the meeting will disrupt services Island-wide if most members turn up.