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Former Senator urges unions to think about the impact of their actions

Historian Walton Brown urged those at the centre of labour disputes to consider whether their complaints are worth the disruption they are causing.

The former Progressive Labour Party Senator reflected on labour struggles of years gone by, when workers rallied in the face of great hardship, and asked the unions of today to think about how their actions over today’s conditions impact on Bermuda.

Mr Brown was speaking at a meeting of Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda at the Cathedral Hall, where the discussion topic was his new book, ‘Bermuda and the Struggle for Reform: Race, Politics and Ideology 1944-1998’.

Bermuda Industrial Union has been involved in a string of disputes in recent weeks, with bus drivers striking for two days last month over the firing of a colleague, leaving many employees and tourists without transport.

Mr Brown told the audience: “We need to move to a place where we put Country first. Think about your actions and whether your pursuit of that particular issue and what it achieves is worthwhile.

“Workers and management need to put Country first. Whatever your situation, do we really want tourists not to be able to get where they want to go?”

He said some negotiations have dragged on because “everyone wants to strategise” by starting the bidding high.

“Contesting parties need to deal honestly and openly with stuff,” he said.

“Dialogue goes on for months. If we had a more mature direction, we would minimise some of the disruption.”

He said compared to pay negotiations of years gone by, today’s disputes revolve around incremental improvements in conditions.

“It’s important, but you have got to think about your Country. Sometimes personal elements get in the way of rational discussion,” he said.

During a question-and-answer session on a variety of topics with an audience of around 25 people, Mr Brown also warned the PLP the One Bermuda Alliance should not be underestimated.

Asked whether the OBA could win an election in spite of race-based voting patterns, Mr Brown said: “Sure, we have to realise that people’s political decisions are made for a multitude of reasons. No one is one-dimensional.”

He said gender, class, nationality are all factors in addition to race, continuing: “Is it possible for the OBA to get elected? Of course. We have a two-party system. It’s within a realm of probability.

“Any political party that holds power, if you demonstrate that you do not fully respect voters, if you demonstrate that you take certain things for granted, if you demonstrate that you lack the capacity to listen intently and act accordingly, then you raise the prospect of losing power.

“The public are deserving. Never look at voters in a one-dimensional way.”

And he said politicians need to set a better example for young people currently involved in gang violence.

“Young people say politicians seem to focus on material aspects instead of focusing on issues,” he said.

“Imagine if we had a Parliament where the vast majority of politicians demonstrated commitment to public service, responding to people’s concerns and trying to address those issues: people with have a lot less to say about politicians.

“Politicians get a bad reputation now, partly because some of them don’t demonstrate the seriousness of their job.”

Useful websites: www.curb.bm, www.plp.bm

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Published September 08, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated September 08, 2011 at 9:40 am)

Former Senator urges unions to think about the impact of their actions

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