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Civil servant praised for pivotal role in ending General Strike

Kenneth Richardson, left, with Irving Pearman and Ottiwell Simmons, represent Bermuda at the 1976 International Labour Organisation conference in Geneva, Switzerland (Photograph supplied)

A civil servant helped broker a deal in the island’s worst industrial relations stalemate, trade unionists said yesterday.

They said the “tireless” work of Kenneth Richardson, who was Permanent Secretary at the labour and home affairs ministry at the time of the 1981 General Strike, was pivotal in ending the dispute.

The Bermuda Public Services Union added that on the strike’s 40th anniversary “we remember and honour Ken – the voice of reason who worked in partnership with the BIU delegation to lift Bermuda out of a very difficult period in its labour history.”

The BPSU said emotions had reached "fever pitch" in 1981 as the Bermuda Industrial Union and Government deadlocked over negotiations to boost public sector wages.

The BIU negotiation team was led by Barbara Ball and Eldrige "Snowy," Brimmer and the government team was headed by Gary Philips and Walwyn Hughes.

A BPSU spokesman said: “After many weeks of negotiations, an air of distrust had tainted further discussions and the two sides became deadlocked.

“Ken was incredibly invested in the 1981 dispute.

“Countless hours were spent on the telephone and at meetings, listening and consulting with BIU president Ottiwell Simmons, Helena Molly Burgess, Calvert Bean and other members of the BIU negotiating team.”

The spokesman added: “The union was understandably passionate about the rights of the union workers.

“Ken’s manner and sincere interest in their concerns fostered an atmosphere of constructive dialogue.”

Mr Simmons said Mr Richardson was “ fair, kindhearted and an industrial relations fixer”.

Mr Richardson also followed BIU negotiations with the Bermuda Hospitals Board over a new collective bargaining agreement.

His reputation and humble background earned him the trust of union leaders.

Mr Richardson was welcomed by a crowd of thousands at Union Square near the end of the strike as he arrived to help broker a key agreement at BIU headquarters.

The BPSU added: “He met the moment.

“Ken was imbued with a deep sense of ethics, humility, a natural tendency towards teamwork, devotion to family and commitment to the issues of the underserved.

“Most significantly, he championed the virtues of an inclusive Bermuda.”

Mr Richardson, who died in March aged 82, became the island’s first Black Cabinet Secretary in 1984.

The BPSU’s delegates conference in 2020 gave Mr Richardson an honorary life membership.

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Published May 05, 2021 at 8:03 am (Updated May 05, 2021 at 7:47 am)

Civil servant praised for pivotal role in ending General Strike

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