Simmons honoured by BIU
A former head of the Bermuda Industrial Union was honoured at yesterday’s Labour Day celebrations.
The BIU headquarters building on Union Square was renamed the Ottiwell A Simmons Building as a tribute to the ex-leader and MP.
Chris Furbert, the president of the BIU, said a dream of Mr Simmons’s had been fulfilled when the BIU moved to the building in 1987.
He told the former MP: “We owe you a great debt of gratitude, sir.”
Speakers yesterday also highlighted Bermuda’s first gay Pride celebration two days earlier.
Jason Hayward, the president of the Bermuda Public Services Union and a Progressive Labour Party senator, told the crowds: “What Saturday showed me was we have to be absolutely proud of who we are as individuals.”
Mr Hayward said his religious faith had taught him tolerance and empathy.
He added: “Support is real, coming from the labour movement, we have worked hard to reduce bullying, harassment and discrimination for the LGBTQI community, in the workplace. We are continually trying to challenge norms.”
However, Mr Hayward took a swing at Butterfield Bank’s sponsorship of the Pride parade after recent redundancies.
Mr Hayward said: “They had the nerve, the gall, to be the lead sponsor, for a public event, when, a few months ago, employees walked into their offices and didn’t know if they were going to be dismissed.
“Where do your priorities lie? You have not showed your workers that you care for them.”
The bank restructured in April with the loss of 11 jobs and the closure of the Rosebank Centre in Hamilton.
Mr Hayward also pledged support for exploited workers from overseas and said the BPSU would hold a meeting this week in a bid to tackle their concerns.
David Burt, the Premier, told the crowds outside the union HQ: “This weekend, there was another march in some of these same streets. The themes were not new.
“Words like equality and freedom were used in support of that cause.
“The Constitution of Bermuda guarantees that all people are entitled to freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of assembly. Those are hard-fought rights.”
Mr Burt added: “It should not be lost on anyone who marched on Saturday that today’s march is what made Saturday possible.”
Labour Day was established as a holiday in the wake of a general strike of 1981 and was first commemorated in September 1982.
Speakers said the fight for fairness and worker’s rights continued and highlighted this year’s theme of “social justice and decent work for all workers”.
Lovitta Foggo, the minister responsible for labour, underscored the Government’s commitment to a living wage, and listed some of the administration’s legislative achievements for workers over the past year, including extended maternity leave and the introduction of paternity leave and an increase in the retirement age of 65.
Shannon James, head of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, said people should remember the struggles of earlier pioneers in union rights.
The crowd of about 200 held a moment of silence in memory of Leroy Simmons, the late president of the Bermuda Entertainment Union, who died in April.
Hundreds more joined in as the march set off at midday through the streets of Hamilton with banners that celebrated the achievements of the island’s labour movement.
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