On Friday December 11th during a busy session in Parliament one of the Bills debated was the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 2020.
The Bill consolidated the Trade Union Act 1965, the Labor Relations Act 1975 and the Labour Disputes Act 1992. It also established an Employment and Labor Relations Code in respect of trade unions, labor relations and employment matters, and provides general reforms and civil penalties.
The OBA Opposition generally supported the Bill but had reservations in some areas which we spoke to and we tabled an amendment to Schedule 3, Essential Services.
In Schedule 3 those services that are deemed as Essential are listed. This schedule is lifted from the First Schedule of the Labour Relations Act 1975 with such essential services as Electricity, Hospital and Nursing, Fire, Air and Marine Traffic Control among others making a total of 16. In addition in the new consolidated act internet services and prisons and corrections are also deemed essential.
The Opposition concern centered around clause 11 of Schedule 3 which refers to our docks and states that the following is also considered essential “The loading and unloading of mail, medical supplies, foodstuffs, cattle and chicken feed and all supplies needed to maintain and essential service herein and the transport of such goods to their proper destination.”
Seems reasonable right?
Perhaps in 1975 but not in 2020.
This clause in the 1975 Act was lifted into the 2020 Consolidated Act. Unfortunately it is now not effective in preserving a critical essential service, our Hamilton Docks.
Here is why.
First, a lot has changed in the transport and movement of freight since 1975 when bulk loaded cargo was prevalent but has since given way to container cargo. More importantly, the biggest change impacting the ability of the docks to be considered an essential service is that the Act in 1975 did not contemplate 9/11 and the resulting change by the US after the terrorist attack that any ship leaving a US port cannot re-enter US waters with the same cargo. This US legislation forces the vessels to stay in Bermuda until they are fully discharged.
This means that if there is a labor dispute or illegal work stoppage on our docks the stevedores unload the “essential” cargo but leave the rest of the cargo on the ship. Since the ship cannot return to the US until all freight is unloaded it is stuck in port here until the dispute is resolved.
The resulting knock on effect is that all ships run late, product all across the island is unavailable and costs rise due to additional overtime and additional fuel consumption as the ships try to make up time when they can leave.