BIU leader: Low voter turnout led to PLP defeat

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  • BIU President Chris Furbert blamed a low turnout of voters for the PLP’s election defeat.

    BIU President Chris Furbert blamed a low turnout of voters for the PLP’s election defeat.

  • Chris Furbert held a press conference yesterday at BIU Headquarters to share his views on this yearís election and the poor turnout for Bermudas voters. (Photo by Akil Simmons) December 19,2012

    Chris Furbert held a press conference yesterday at BIU Headquarters to share his views on this yearís election and the poor turnout for Bermudas voters. (Photo by Akil Simmons) December 19,2012

Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert lambasted those who failed to vote on Monday — accusing them of handing victory to the One Bermuda Alliance.

“We asked everyone to exercise their right to vote. If you go back 40, 50 or 60 years ago everybody didn’t have a right to vote.

“People fought for people to have the right to vote, there was blood sweat and tears that went into making sure people got a chance to vote,” he said yesterday.

“Whilst I understand the OBA is the new Government, I honestly think they didn’t win the Government; the people of this Country who didn’t vote gave the Government to the OBA. That’s my opinion.”

Mr Furbert said the turnout for the general election — which was 70.7 percent — was one of the lowest in Bermuda’s history.

It is second only to the 66.2 percent turnout in October 1985. That election took place after Progressive Labour Party internal fighting led to six members being expelled, with four of them forming the National Liberal Party.

Mr Furbert attributed the low turnout this year to frustration over the economy and unemployment, although he said the PLP did what it could to ease that pain through tax concessions for the hotel and retail industries.

He also highlighted the freeze on work permits for certain categories of employment to protect jobs for Bermudians, and the move to bail out the Bank of Butterfield.

“The Government did try to do what it can to assist employment in this Country,” he said.

“As to the question of why people stayed away in the end, you’d have to ask the roughly 32 percent of voters that didn’t come to vote this time around exactly why they decided to stay home because only they can answer that. I can’t answer that.”

He extended congratulations on behalf of the union and its members to new Premier Craig Cannonier and the new Government.

However, he said: “The BIU is extremely disappointed that the PLP was not able to retain the Government.”

He went on to question whether the OBA issued a platform in the run up to the election.

“I haven’t seen one? Have you all seen one?’ he asked the assembled reporters.

He then cast doubt on an OBA pledge to create 2,000 new jobs in the next five years through its economic recovery plan.

“I’m very optimistic, right, but I remember in the general election in the United States when Mitt Romney promised the exact same thing — that they can probably get 12 million jobs over the next four years or so.

“And everybody put all the numbers together and they didn’t see how that could happen. We need to think outside the box here.

“If the OBA are saying ‘we can create 2,000 jobs,’ and they work closely with business, have they been holding off on jobs all this time the PLP has been in power?

“You need to ask yourself that question. How can we all of a sudden create 2,000 new jobs just because we’ve got a new party in place? It’s very scary. That’s scary.”

Asked what the new Government would mean in terms of workers’ rights, Mr Furbert replied: “I don’t know if I’m going to be the one to answer that question for you.

“You would probably have to ask the OBA that question since they’re the new Government. But recognising even when we had a PLP Government, labour had never asked for any favours from the PLP Government.

“All we asked was for labour to be treated fair and equal and make sure that fairness was obtained in the workplace.

“We certainly asked the PLP for no favours and we don’t intend to ask the OBA for any favours.”

Mr Cannonier declined to comment yesterday in response to Mr Furbert’s press conference.

In written answers to questions from the Bermuda Public Services Union just days before the election, the OBA said: “The One Bermuda Alliance understands and appreciates the important role that labour unions play in Bermuda in protecting the rights of workers.

“We also appreciate the broader role that labour unions play in the area of workforce development, as well as the importance of an effective working relationship among Government, employers and unions.

“We know that Bermuda’s trade unions have valuable ideas and perspectives that should be heard by government on a regular basis.”

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Published Dec 20, 2012 at 9:00 am (Updated Dec 19, 2012 at 11:14 pm)

BIU leader: Low voter turnout led to PLP defeat

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