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Premier meets with union leaders

An olive branch has been offered to trade unions by Premier Michael Dunkley.

And he said that he wanted to foster good industrial relations with the union movement.

Mr Dunkley was speaking after he met representatives of the Bermuda Trades Union Congress (BTUC) — the umbrella body for workers across the Island — on Monday following a string of wildcat strikes by unionised staff.

He said: “This Government recognises that Bermudians continue to struggle in this economic climate and this was a key discussion point for all of us today.

“For my part, I pledged that Government was committed to looking at all of their concerns and doing all it can to try and ease the burdens that Bermudians are facing.

“At the same time, I challenged them as an organisation to work with us in a spirit of partnership to find common ground solutions that will benefit their workers and the people of Bermuda overall.”

Mr Dunkley and union chiefs also discussed the imminent end of the ten percent Wednesday discount in grocery stores and attempts to make the running of Government more affordable.

Cutting a day off the working month and a 4.6 percent pay reduction for civil servants was also on the table, alongside ways to ensure Bermudians were given priority in the workplace and public education.

But BTUC general secretary Michael Charles played down the significance of the meeting — which he said lasted less than an hour.

Mr Charles said: “There wasn't anything of substance that went on. It's was a regular run of the mill thing.

“What he said was he wants to work in harmony and I'm sure we all want to work in harmony.”

But Mr Charles said he had questioned the Government ideal of shared sacrifice — and that workers had not seen much evidence so far.

Mr Charles added: “The worker is at a disadvantage all the time. The banks do what they want, Belco does what it wants.

“The Government and politicians talk about a shared sacrifice and I think everyone knows that's not the case.”

He added the BTUC had also questioned Government's commitment to education after the stand-alone portfolio was combined with economic development under Dr Grant Gibbons follow a cabinet size reduction.

Mr Charles — a former teacher — said: “This was a system that was in crisis — it was said almost every time a politician opened their mouth in the run-up to the 2012 general election.”

And he added: “As long as people are working and not being treated properly, there will be issues. We have to find a way to tackle issues as quickly as possible — if that's not done, there will be problems.”

Michael Dunkley

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Published June 25, 2014 at 9:00 am (Updated June 25, 2014 at 9:32 am)

Premier meets with union leaders

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