BPSU agrees to pay cut
Members of the island's white-collar union are believed to have voted to accept a 10 per cent pay cut and suspension of pension contributions to ease pressure on the public purse caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
A message from the Bermuda Public Services Union, seen by The Royal Gazette, showed that 405 people agreed to the Government's proposal and 348 rejected it.
Members of the BPSU were told in a message on Tuesday: “Your union is committed to continuing the dialogue with the Bermuda Government on cost-saving measures as the BPSU strongly believes public officers should not bear the brunt of all these costs.”
The agreement came after government workers and Bermuda Economic Development Corporation employees held a series of meetings at the Fairmont Southampton last Thursday and Friday.
The union said in its update: “The purpose of these meetings was to discuss the Bermuda Government's proposal for cost-saving measures and its impact on the public service and the membership.
“In attendance at these meetings were the Minister of Finance and the Financial Secretary, who presented and discussed the current state of Bermuda's economy and Government's fiscal position because of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The message added: “At each meeting, the members were asked to vote via secret ballot whether to accept, a yes vote, or reject, a no vote, for the 10 per cent pay cut proposed by the Government. This pay cut would be for a one-year period, July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, and would be coupled with a freeze on contributions to both social insurance and the Superannuation Pension Fund.”
Armell Thomas, the BPSU president, could not be contacted for comment yesterday.
Inspector Emmerson Carrington, the chairman of the Bermuda Police Association, said yesterday that talks with the Government continued.
He added: “Everybody understands that there are some serious implications because of Covid, so nobody is trying to be unreasonable because they have to be realistic.”
Mr Carrington highlighted that government revenues were hit by restrictions on commercial flights for more than three months, as well as by the virtual cancellation of the cruise ship season. But he said that unresolved grievances still had to be tackled.
Mr Carrington added: “All unions have outstanding matters; that's why all the unions thought it was a negotiation until the finance minister made it clear that it wasn't.”
He said: “We recognise that people in the community are not working, that some probably wouldn't have a job for the next year, year and a half, while things recover, and other people are working all this time.”
Mr Carrington added: “Obviously, public servants know that they have to do their bit as well. That's why it has to be negotiation — you can't expect things to be forced down people's throat.”
But he predicted: “I'm confident that, in the end, everybody will be satisfied.”
Chris Furbert, the president of the blue-collar Bermuda Industrial Union, said yesterday that three meetings were held on Monday and Tuesday.
It is understood that the results of secret ballots at that time had not been revealed to members.
Curtis Dickinson, the Minister of Finance, told public-sector workers in an open letter last week that a savings package would save jobs, although the plan was “perhaps tougher than the unions had envisaged”.
He wrote: “After factoring in the impact of Covid-19, the revised deficit for 2020-21 is estimated to be in the range of $275 to $315 million.”
Mr Dickinson added: “The Government now needs to raise $700 million to finance the 2020-21 deficit, refinance short-term credit facilities and other current government bonds with relatively high interest rates and also fund possible deficits over the next two years.”
Members of the Bermuda Union of Teachers voted to accept a temporary pay cut last week.
The Ministry of Finance did not respond to a request for comment.