Labour Day festivities cancelled
The traditional Labour Day celebrations have become the latest victim of Covid-19 after organisers called off the event.
The day, held on the first Monday of September, is marked with a march through Hamilton by representatives of all the island’s unions in normal times.
A celebration of organised labour — usually attended by the Premier and other dignitaries — is also held at Union Square and the Labour Day road race traditionally starts from the same venue.
But yesterday officials said that this year’s event would be scaled back because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, the road race has been forced to change venue because of organisers’ refusal to pay a $3,000 fee to the Corporation of Hamilton for having it in the City.
Dwight Jackson, the general secretary of the Bermuda Trade Union Congress, confirmed the celebrations would be “very tempered down compared to previous years” because of restrictions.
He said: “There’s not going to be a march — we had to jump through a lot of hoops trying to get a permit because of Covid.
“It’s really not going to be a big event.
Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, said he understood that the event had been cancelled, but was not familiar with the details.
He pointed out that, although the event was traditionally held outside BIU headquarters, it was organised by a committee made up of all unions.
Mr Furbert said: “I don’t think a permit has been given for the march to take place.”
Mr Furbert was speaking as he discussed the latest developments in the BIU’s dispute with the Government over union decertification laws.
He said: “It’s very interesting that we have Labour Day and we have this issue right in front of us before Labour Day — and it needs to be resolved.”
He told the media: “At the moment, I think it’s just in limbo.
“I would have thought that some kind of communication would have went to the media by now to let you know that the event for Monday is off.
“My understanding is that the general secretary of the Bermuda Trade Union Congress should be sending something out to let you know.”
The Bermuda Public Services Union did not comment when asked if any celebrations were planned for Monday.
But Armell Thomas, the president of the BPSU, later issued a statement saying that it was important to recognise the day, even if only informally.
Mr Thomas said: “It is important now more than ever to celebrate labour, especially given the devastating impact that the pandemic has had on economies worldwide and the future of labour in the workplace.
“Layoffs, terminations, redundancies and loss of benefits are but some of the serious consequences of this pandemic.
“The BPSU takes this opportunity to recognise and acknowledge the thankless efforts that are being made by all workers; we honour and salute them.
“Throughout this crisis, public sector workers have been responsible for treating the infected, monitoring our borders, contact tracing, Covid testing, waste management, financial assistance and a wide range of other public services.
“At times, however, public sector workers have, unfortunately, been criticised and abused by the very same individuals they are trying to serve.
“We encourage everyone to celebrate Labour Day this year by taking the time to reflect on the sacrifices made by our forefathers to establish the rights, protections, and benefits that we are afforded today.”
Mr Thomas, general secretary Kevin Grant and other BPSU members congregated at the Crow Lane roundabout yesterday morning to welcome workers into Hamilton.