Burt: we will stand up for workers
The Premier pledged that the Progressive Labour Party would stand up for Bermuda's workers as the island's unions marked Labour Day yesterday.
David Burt highlighted the strong links between the PLP and the island's unions as the General Election approached in a speech outside the Bermuda Industrial Union headquarters in Hamilton.
Mr Burt said: “These are times when workers are facing a new normal, but some workers believe the new normal creates a fearful future and it must not.
“Brothers and sisters, we are living through a pandemic. There will be uncertainty and yes, there are challenging times ahead.
“But rest assured the PLP will maintain a heart for the people as we work to solve unprecedented problems caused by this pandemic.”
The Premier, who was joined by PLP candidates at the podium, added: “Though our discussions may not be easy, and at times we might not always see eye to eye, there is one thing that you should never forget — the Bermuda PLP made up of the sea of green you see here with me and out there with you, we will always serve workers.
“We will always stand strong with labour and, together with you, we will continue our collective work to dismantle the two Bermudas and replace it with one Bermuda based on the principle of fairness.”
Several hundred gathered outside in Union Square before the traditional march through Hamilton.
Chris Furbert, the president of the BIU, praised the work done by the Government throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, but said the pandemic had underscored the need for unemployment insurance, labour reform and tax reform.
Mr Furbert added: “The country will never have a better time to look at tax reform than now.
“While we continue to have conversations about a living wage, lowering the cost of living in Bermuda because it's too high, the Government has taxed the people and taxed the people — not just the PLP, but the OBA also.
“You can't tax the people any more. The time has come now to have a conversation with all the social partners about tax reform.”
The union leader also took aim at companies who have used the Covid-19 outbreak to stack the deck against workers and workers who benefited from the work of unions, but did not support them.
Armell Thomas, the president of the white-collar Bermuda Public Services Union, emphasised the need for shared sacrifice to deal with the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.
He said that public officers with the BPSU had agreed to take a cut in salaries and benefits on condition that it would be applicable to all government workers.
Mr Thomas said: “The union still awaits confirmation from the Government that its conditions have been met.
“I take this opportunity publicly to remind the PLP of its pledge that there will be a shared sacrifice all the way from the Government to the lowest person.”
He added at the end of the speech that before he took the podium that Mr Burt had handed him an envelope.
Mr Thomas did not reveal what the envelope contained.
But he said: “I have been waiting on an envelope like this for a few months.”
Jason Hayward, the Minister of Labour and a former president of the BPSU, said the Government was committed to protection of the island's workers, to provide training and help them find employment when needed.
Mr Hayward added the Government had made a big effort to support people who had lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
He said: “By now you would all have heard that the supplemental benefit being offered as a temporary lifeline for those in financial need. By now, I'm hoping the majority of you who need assistance have sought out the assistance from the Government.
“Successful applicants will either be placed on financial assistance or they will receive a monthly benefit.”
He added: “If individuals do not have health insurance, the Government will provide health insurance to those individuals.”
Mr Hayward thanked the island's workers for their contributions to Bermuda and pledged that the Government would not let them fall through the cracks.
No representatives from the One Bermuda Alliance spoke at the rally before the march, but Craig Cannonier, leader of the OBA earlier released a statement in support of the labour movement and highlighted his party's commitment to workers.
Mr Hayward said: “We are in the midst of an election, and yes I do represent the big green machine, the PLP.
“OBA — you are not here today. There is talk about independents and other entities, but right now the PLP carries the juice.”
• To view David Burt's speech in full, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”