Bermuda Cement Company (BCC) workers downed tools yesterday because of job insecurity in the wake of what they see as a hostile take-over by the West End Development Company (Wedco). And the strike has brought the Island’s cement supply to a standstill which could cripple the Island’s booming construction industry unless cement is imported from abroad. BCC plant manager Clive Hook wanted to meet with Wedco Chairman, Lt. Col. David Burch, to discuss his future employment when BCC is taken over on January 1 by the Government quango and international giant Cemex.
BCC president Jim Butterfield announced on September 1 that BCC was shutting down on December 31 after being “driven out by Wedco”. Then on September 27, Lt. Col. Burch announced there would be no shortage of cement as Wedco and Cemex had agreed to operate the Dockyard silos until a long-term operator was found. But in a letter sent to Lt. Col. Burch last Tuesday, October 4, Mr. Hook said he had no interest in working for a new owner and that the “powers that be” were insistent about moving ahead with the take-over.
“The five of us here live each day now in absolute uncertainty as to our future, with sleepless days and restless nights,” Mr. Hook said.
Mr. Hook’s letter also said he had twice tried to contact Lt. Col. Burch, but to no avail.“We have, as a group, decided that, if we do not meet with you by Friday October 7, this facility will be closed to the public on Monday, October 10 until such time as we do meet,” Mr. Hook wrote.
Wedco claims to be working as fast as it could to finalise the take-over but a meeting would not take place until those take-over arrangements were completed.
“If as you indicated (threaten) that unless you meet by Friday, October 7, then it is your intention to ‘close the plant from October 10 until such time as we do meet’ is a matter for you and BCC, not Wedco,” Lt. Col. Burch said. “Let me say at the outset that the current industrial action occurring at the cement facility on Dockyard is a matter for the Bermuda Cement Company and its employees,” Lt.Col. Burch said. “Further, neither I nor the Board of the West End Development Corporation responds very well to blackmail or threats.