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BPSU: No austerity cuts without economy plan

Armell Thomas, president of the Bermuda Public Services Union (Photograph supplied).

Civil servants will not agree to austerity measures until there is a clear plan for the economy, the head of the island’s white collar union warned last night.Armell Thomas, the president of the Bermuda Public Services Union, highlighted the crucial work performed by the civil service after Bob Richards, the finance minister in the last One Bermuda Alliance administration, suggested a cut to public service salaries should be on the table as the Government tackled the financial devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.Mr Thomas said: “The BPSU cannot agree to any austerity measures until we understand the current financial picture and how the Bermuda Government plans to claw its way out of this downturn. “Once this has been established, collectively the BPSU and the Government can work on a way forward that is in the best interest of all.” He added: “The BPSU will remain committed to encouraging our members to provide quality public services while at the same time defending public service employees against unwarranted attacks on their livelihood.”He was speaking after Mr Richards said earlier that the Government was likely to face a revenue shortfall in the region of $200 million this financial year as projected tax income failed to materialise.Mr Richards added: “I would have thought they should be working out something with the unions to get some sort of reduction in compensation to civil servants.”But Mr Thomas said: “It was, after all, Mr Richards who fought relentlessly for the now infamous Morgan’s Point guarantee agreements which ultimately cost the taxpayer an estimated $180 million due to default.”He added: “Reactionary, panic-driven calls for across-the-board cuts are not the answer and have been proven time and time again, both locally and across the globe, to be not only ineffective and inefficient, they can also be very damaging to both service levels and have far-reaching implications on a country’s economy.” Mr Thomas said that public servants helped provide healthcare, defence and security, revenue collection, education, transportation, telecommunications and many other vital services.He added: “Without public service employees, Bermuda simply cannot function.”Mr Thomas said: “Public officers are professionals dedicated to serving Bermuda; many of whom have taken on additional responsibilities for years without any additional compensation due to ongoing budgetary constraints and hiring freezes.”