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March commemorates anniversary of 1981 general strike

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Activist Glenn Fubler makes a point during the procession on Front Street (Photograph by Alva Solomon)

More than three dozen residents walked through Hamilton yesterday in a peaceful march to commemorate the anniversary of the groundbreaking 1981 General Strike.

The strike, which started in April 1981, began when hundreds of government workers and hospital employees walked off the job, demanding a pay rise.

It was the biggest labour dispute in Bermuda’s history.

The stand-off ended that May 7 when the Bermuda Industrial Union won wage increases with an average of 20 per cent after negotiations with the United Bermuda Party government.

Residents gathered at Victoria Park, setting off on Dundonald Street to Union Square, with activist Glenn Fubler giving the historical background to the strike.

Victor Fishington, former president of Telco’s workers union, leads the procession at Union Square (Photograph by Alva Solomon)

He said that on the first day of the strike people came together “and led a march which changed our history.”

Mr Fubler, who organised the event, added that since then the island had not seen a riot or similar occurrence.

He said: “You see that Bermuda shifted because of that event, so that is something that this walk today is observing and celebrating.”

He recalled that the 1981 march was led by the late Campbell Simons, a police officer who gained support from the late Reverend Canon Thomas Nisbett and the late Reverend Larry Lowe of the Anglican Church in organising the call to action.

Michael Nisbett, a son of Canon Nisbett, said he joined the march because of his father’s efforts.

He told the gathering at Victoria Park, including students from Somersfield Academy, that several lessons could be learnt from the strike.

“Right is right — we should always keep that in mind. Number two is that an honest day’s pay comes from an honest day’s work.

“The third thing you learnt is that you may not be on the front line, and I am talking about my dad and Pastor Lowe, but it is equally important to support those who are on the front line even though it may not directly affect you.”

Mr Nisbett added: “Today, because of events like this, we have more pay equity and things that we did not have in place back then.

“But we are standing on their shoulders, those who were on the front lines and those who supported it.”

The procession paused at Union Square, at St Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church and on Front Street, culminating at City Hall.

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Published May 02, 2024 at 7:55 am (Updated May 02, 2024 at 7:55 am)

March commemorates anniversary of 1981 general strike

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