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Firefighters remain defiant

By Karen Smith, The Royal Gazette, 23 jun 2000

Defiant firefighters at the Bermuda International Airport will continue to boycott a new shift system today - despite lengthy talks between union bosses and management yesterday.

Vice president of the Bermuda Industrial Union Chris Furbert refused to say how the three-hour meeting went yesterday afternoon until he had discussed it with Government and workers today.

But he said the majority of the firefighters would carry on working their original shift rotas, instead of the new system introduced by management at Serco Aviation Services last Saturday.

The men have continued with their original working hours claiming they were not given the contractual 14 days official notice of the changes, or more time to discuss them.

And yesterday The Royal Gazette reported how Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Paula Cox had referred the row to the Permanent Arbitration Tribunal under the essential services provisions of the Labour Relations Act 1975.

Last night Mr. Furbert would not be drawn on the success of the meeting, but revealed that the union had a further battle on its hands over Serco's refusal to pay the men their wages this week.

He has emphatically denied that the men were taking strike action, but merely going in for their ordinary shifts, and said they should be paid as usual.

Whether or not the defiant firefighters were utilised, he said, was entirely down to Serco management.

He said: "The men have received a memo saying their pay will be deducted this week. We are not standing for that. The men should be paid.

"I don't want to say too much about how the meeting went, but nothing has changed...

"I have to speak to the Minister tomorrow and to the men concerned. I will say it lasted three hours and the men will continue to work their original shifts tomorrow."

Serco management have said little on the dispute, except to confirm that only some of the firemen were being utilised.

They said those members of staff that have been willing to work the new shifts have covered all of the rotas this week, ensuring all passenger flight arrivals were covered by the fire department.

Last night neither Serco management nor Ms Cox were available for comment.