HAMILTON, Bermuda–November 24th, 2020–The Ministry of Labour has given up on mediation efforts over the dock strike, which has brough chaos to Front Street at a key season for retail sales.
Both parties, the Bermuda Industrial Union and the employers are reported to be at an impasse with no further progress seeming possible, and Minister of Labour Jason Hayward has referred the dispute for settlement to the Labour Disputes Tribunal for mandatory resolution, which brings the strike action to an end, at least for now.
Once referred to the Tribunal, in accordance with section 19 of the Labour Disputes Act 1992, any lockout strike or irregular industrial action short of a strike is unlawful and any person who takes part in, incites or in any way encourages, persuades or influences any person to take part in, or otherwise acts in furtherance of, a lock-out, strike or irregular industrial action short of a strike that is unlawful under this section is guilty of an offence.
Hayward said, “The Government will continue to work with the parties involved to resolve this dispute. I am hopeful that the parties will find a resolution to this issue as soon as possible as it is in the public interest that the services at the dock can fully resume.
The crisis on Hamilton’s docks is having a huge impact on Bermuda’s retailers, a company boss said, according to the local newspaper, The Royal Gazette.
Paula Clarke, chief executive officer at Gibbons Company, said: “It’s having a major disruptive effect.”
She added: “We have inventory coming every single week, but at this time of year we have a higher volume of inventory coming to Bermuda.
“For the docks to shut down at this point prevents us from providing the goods that our customers want.”
Clarke was speaking as a shutdown of the docks entered its sixth day.
The Gibbons Company boss said her organization is awaiting goods shipped in containers aboard the Bermuda Islander, which docked last Thursday, and the Oleander, which arrived on Monday.
Lorraine Shailer, chairwoman of the retail division of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce, the Royal Gazette also reported, said the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the way people shop.
Ms Shailer said: “Here in Bermuda this means more people on the island, more people shopping locally and more demand for local product, less people leaving for Black Friday shopping trips, Thanksgiving holiday, Christmas and trips in general and so again more people shopping locally. This has also led to a change in shopping habits and what we want to buy.
“Retail has had to react, adapt and change to accommodate these demands – changing orders, topping up on previous orders, buying into other product, so yes this does mean strikes at the dock will affect us as we need to receive these goods.
“This is a critical selling period for retailers, as always the run up to Christmas is our busiest selling period.
The SISL container-ship Somers Isles belongs to Somers Isles Shipping Ltd, a Bermudian owned and operated company. Their home page says it “provides a direct ocean freight service linking Bermuda with the port of Fernandina Beach, Florida.
In addition to the port-to-port service, SISL provides intermodal container service to Bermuda from throughout the south east of the U.S., and through connecting carrier agreements provides links between Bermuda and the Caribbean islands and Central America. SISL operates the container feeder vessel “Somers Isles” and handles both container and break-bulk cargo.”
Somers-Isles was built in Hamburg, Germany in 1991, has a gross tonnage of 3815 tons and is registered in Harlingen, Netherlands. ‘Somers Isles’ is a historical name for Bermuda, no longer used officially, commemorating its founding as a settlement in the 17th Century, by Sir George Somers.
Significantly, in terms of the Bermuda economy, cargo movements are one-way with ships bringing mostly foodstuffs and construction materials into Bermuda but returning with empty containers to Florida.
The turmoil will come as a something of an embarrassment to the recently re-elected David Burt Progressive Labour Party government, which has close ties historically to the Bermuda Industrial Union, and was reelected last month with a massive majority.,