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(CMC) – The Bermuda Electric Light Company (Belco) Friday warned of possible loss of full service after workers downed tools following a union meeting that failed to resolve their dispute over redundancies.
“As of right now, work-to-rule has been halted and we are now withdrawing our labour to make sure our membership’s demands are heard,” said the president of the Electricity Supply Trade Union (ESTU), Donald Lottimore , adding that the action at the island’s sole power provider , was indeed a strike.
Asked if the island’s power supply could be impacted, Lottimore said “there is a potential for things to be affected, as long as we are at an impasse”.
Later, the Ascendant Group, Belco’s parent company, confirmed receiving an ESTU letter stating that its members had withdrawn labour.
“This has an immediate impact on the operations of Belco’s system. Because of the lack of manpower, and in order to ensure we can operate the plant safely, Belco cannot guarantee full electricity supply to the island,” the company said, noting that power supply to essential services would be maintained in the event of outages.
“As the industrial action continues throughout the day, our ability to maintain a reliable electricity supply is diminished and there is an increased likelihood of widespread outages.Medical priority customers should consider attending the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital to ensure they have access to the required care and resources.”
Lottimore said the union had met with Ascendant on Thursday night, but could not come to an agreement.
He maintained that the ESTU was continuing to demand the removal of Ascendant chief executive Sean Durfy, as well as Robert Schaefer, the company’s chief financial officer.
“The key part of the dispute is the respect of the employees that we feel this particular CEO does not have,” he said, after the more than 100 unionised Belco workers marched to the Bermuda Industrial Union for the four-hour meeting behind closed doors.
The heightened industrial action came two weeks after the ESTU gave Ascendant Group 14 days to reinstate four Bermudian members of staff, among other demands.
Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown said that talks had been continuing this week between the ESTU and Ascendant.
As the union workers assembled outside the company’s main office, one elderly customer was waiting at to pay her electricity bill.
“I just want to pay my bill, it’s an inconvenience for me. It doesn’t look like anyone is coming. Christmas is coming but it doesn’t look like any staff are,” she said.