Focus on future for union leader Hayward
Labour Day should honour progress made in workers’ rights, but also encourage more advances in the future, a trade union leader said yesterday.
Jason Hayward, president of the Bermuda Public Services Union, added the public should take time to mark improvements in workers’ conditions over the holiday weekend.
However, Mr Hayward said that improvements still needed to be made and that the Government should focus on the provision of affordable housing and universal healthcare.
He added: “Labour Day is about giving credence to those that came before us and worked hard, and also looking to see how we can improve the lives of those who have fallen through the gaps.”
The Labour Day holiday was created after the 1981 General Strike, when Bermuda Industrial Union members downed tools in a fight for higher wages for public and private-sector workers.
The first Labour Day holiday was held in September 1982.
Mr Hayward said that, despite progress made over the years, the quality of life for Bermudian workers still needed to be improved.
He added: “We have to realise that, through the eyes of many workers, Bermuda is not a fair place.
“We’ve seen the purchasing power of workers diminish based on the high cost of living in Bermuda and, if we can get those costs reduced, that would alleviate a lot of the financial stress that families are facing now.”
Mr Hayward said affordable housing was his main concern.
He added that the problem could be solved by rent subsidies for low-income households.
Mr Hayward explained that, because the majority of rental homes were controlled by private sector owners, they had to work with the Government and labour unions to find a solution.
He added that minimum- wage legislation was a step in the right direction, but that it would not be enough to provide workers with a “dignified life”.
Mr Hayward said: “I understand that we need a wage benchmark in the country, we certainly can’t have workers continuously getting paid $10 an hour, but there are other things that need to be put in place and I think that the Government needs to actively work on them.
“I think we could also make the tax system a bit fairer and ensure that our workforce is skilled, so that they can have access to better opportunities that remunerate them better.”
Mr Hayward said trades unions would always be needed no matter which party was in power.
He added: “We work hard to ensure that workers have fairer wages, their rights are protected and that they are treated with a level of respect.”
Mr Hayward said young people should honour those who fought for their rights and they should not take them for granted.
He added younger people should also “learn from the mistakes of the past and build on the wisdom and courage that came before you.”