Less workers for more pay

Trash collectors have been striking for over a week now for officially unknown reasons.  While the Bermuda Sun has suggested that it is due to collectors wanting more pay, noone can really say for certain what the cause is.

Personally I’ve grown quite annoyed with the Bermuda Industrial Union as of late.  Last month I was left stranded in Devils Hole for over an hour before someone kindly told me that the Buses were not running.  Upon calling up the transportation board I was informed of an "emergency meeting" that had been called.  I’m sorry, I don’t care what kind of pretty words you want to use, any meeting held during regular hours of service that disrupts that service is a strike.  Similar goes for trash collecting.  Refusal to collect the trash is a strike, not a work to rule as, unless I’m mistaken, collecting the trash falls within the boundaries of the job description of a trash collector.

It is rediculus that these sort of issues cannot be resolved through negotiation before taking planned strike action as opposed to these impromptu strikes where we’re not even told the reasoning behind them, which I think is absolutely absurd.  President of the Bermuda Industrial Union, Chris Furbert, should be glad that I no longer have a car as if I did I would have taken my trash and thrown it on his lawn days ago in my own form of protest.

So, as the Bermuda Sun suggests, is this recent strike action related to demands for higher pay?  Perhaps the workers do indeed deserve higher pay, especially considering government’s precident for increasing the pay of members of parliament and civil servants last summer, but at what cost? 

One question I’ve always wondered about is why we have 3 individuals manning each trash truck.  When I was away at school in London, Ontario, trash was collected every 6th weekday as a means to cut costs.  Beyond this, each trash truck was manned by a driver and one individual to collect the trash and throw it into the bin.  If 2 individuals could man trash trucks successfully in Canada, why is it that we have 3 per truck here?

Perhaps I’m just bitter for having watched my trash go uncollected for over a week, but in my eyes, I say increase pay to even more than the $26 an hour but make other cutbacks to compensate – such as 2 individuals per truck.



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4 thoughts on “Less workers for more pay

  1. I don’t know the rights and wrongs of this situation, but I do know there are always two sides to an argument. Suppose your boss had agreed to give you a pay rise, but kept putting it off, what would you do? Would you just keep on diligently working, hoping that your boss would keep his word eventually? How long would you wait? Or would you take some time off, just to make a point? If a third party (the public) was depending on you, and you weren’t around to make the deal, whose fault would that be?

  2. Hi Denis, I would have to echo A. Meringue above. Although the industrial actions in question (public transport disruption, the garbage piles, etc.) are certainly not agreeable, I think the onus lise more on management than the workers. As a worker I have found that the workers nine times out of ten will agree something to the effect ‘Okay, Bob from management says they agree that we’re underpaid, and they’re gonna fix it, but they say it’ll take some time, maybe a month.’ A month goes by and we get some other sort of excuse. Its very easy for management to pass the buck or not move on an issue when they can stall. In my experience workers will often buy this stalling tactic for anywhere from six months to a year (I know at least one situation where this has worked for several years), despite the position of various ‘militants and agitators’ who call it as it is as a stalling tactic. Eventually however the proverbial mozza ball hits the fan and we come to the realisation that if they (management) won’t play clean and transparent and in good faith, then certain actions need to be done to ratchet up the pressure. A full blown strike is only one option. Meetings during working hours, as permitted and outlined within both (in these particular cases) the BIU-Government collective agreement (the Blue book) and the labour legislation, as well as work to rule are valid strategies. You say that if by work to rule then they should be picking up the garbage. How true! How naive! Work to rule is outlined in the labour policies of the service in question, for example for garbage collection, you need certain amounts of breaks, you need to ensure the full checking of the truck and its mechanics, you must leave at a cetain point in time and no later or earlier. You must take a cetain number of breaks. You must ensure everything is recorded properly. Work to rule, even for something as apparently simple as garbage collection can see no garbage being collected for the better part of the day (the trucks must ensure they obey the speed limit of course…). Two individuals per truck! So you would compromise the health and safety of the workers! Incredible! If in Canada they could have two workers, did you enquire whether the equipment was the same? How strong was their union? Would they request three workers over two, but have been unsuccessful? You cannot make suh superficial and uninformed comparisons.
    I read in the paper that they are now employing scabs to get the work done. Scabs, and from a labour government! I have no problem with communities getting together and getting the trash taken care off by their own initiative, but scabs! One thing that strikes me however is the sheer amount of trash! We really need to take a hard look at our wasteful ways. There is no reason why we couldn’t cut down our waste through greater recycling and composting initiatives, and reducing our dependence on convenience processed foods that come with so much packaging.
    The workers deserve better pay. And not just them. If the State is serious in employing scabs, then let this summer be a hot one for them.

  3. J Starling,
    Regarding the strike, see my later post in response to A. Meringue’s comments.
    As for the PLP being a labour government, I’d had to say that is a surprising suggestion considering all of the recent labour strikes.
    The party may have been founded on such principles but it does not appear that their actions represent the principles the party was founded on anymore.

  4. Workers should have the right to strike. They should not have the right to strike without notice, whether the service they provide is essential or not. It’s selfish and shows a lack of consideration for the users of the service. It’s also counterproductive, as many members of the public will then blame the workers for the strike action rather than management. If the workers have given management, say, 2 weeks to come up with a deal, and they have failed, then I think more people may be sympathetic to their cause.
    Similarly, meetings during working hours should be permitted, however service should not be allowed to grind to a halt because of them. If you’re off-duty, you can attend, if you’re not, tough.
    In July 2006, following another unannounced walkout by bus drivers, Ewart Brown said:

    “Bermuda cannot go on this way. Whether we are in the tourism business or not, the country cannot withstand the cumulative impact of repeated work stoppages.”

    It’s unfortunate that he has failed to follow his rhetoric up with action.

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