Firefighters reject Government’s cost-cutting plans
The head of the firefighters’ union said yesterday that ageing equipment and a lack of staff had helped spark a rejection of government cost-cutting proposals forced by the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nakia Pearson, the president of the Fire Services Association, said the Government had ignored “all attempts to compromise and counter-propose” as the union negotiated over the package of cuts.
Mr Pearson commended the Government’s handling of the pandemic.
But he said: “The Government constantly purports that our members will take home more of our salary as a result of their measures.”
Mr Pearson added: “What they fail to address is the effect that a loss of a year of pension contributions will affect our members who will retire with varying years of service.”
Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, announced last Wednesday that the savings package aimed at shoring up government finances hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic had been knocked back by the fire service and the Prison Officers Association.
The Bermuda Police Association, which has yet to approve a deal with the Government, also criticised the measures in a statement last Friday.
David Burt, the Premier, said last week that the rejection of the proposals would probably mean a pay cut for the uniformed services.
But Mr Pearson highlighted that “wage parity between the essential services has not been addressed”, and that firefighters contributed to the GEHI health insurance plan and pensions, as did most government staff.
He added: “Budget cuts have proven difficult for our operational ability, as firefighters have had to utilise out-of-date safety equipment, vehicles that have reached the end of their life span, as well as having to overcome the lack of proper equipment.
“Lack of personnel compromises our ability to fulfil responsibilities to the public.”
Mr Pearson maintained that the FSA had worked with Government over the years “for the greater good of the country every step of the way”.
He said the country was protected every day by an average of 14 firefighters plus five airport specialists.
Mr Pearson added between them they covered fires, ambulance response to medical emergencies, vehicle accidents, rescues and kept the airport open.
He said: “In good faith we have tried to negotiate with Government and we remain committed to serve our country to the best of our ability.”
The other main public sector unions, the Bermuda Industrial Union, the Bermuda Public Services Association and the Bermuda Union of Teachers, have agreed to a 10 per cent pay cut for one year, including a freeze on contributions to social insurance and the Superannuation Pension Fund.
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