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Union leader demands emergency summit to address cost of living

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BIU president Chris Furbert wants to see a summit to address the cost of living in Bermuda. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

An emergency summit needs to be held in the next 30 days to get a grip on the cost of living, the leader of Bermuda’s biggest trade union has insisted.

Chris Furbert, head of the Bermuda Industrial Union, said the Government and all stakeholders should take part in the gathering to hammer out a strategy to cut bills and other household expenses by at least 20 per cent.

Mr Furbert warned that successive governments have failed to address the issue.

He told The Royal Gazette: “An emergency summit needs to be held in the next 30 days.

“All stakeholders, including the Government, should take part so that all the stakeholders can figure out what to do

“Successive governments have failed to address the cost-of-living crisis.

“The cost of living needs to come down by at least 20 per cent in Bermuda.

“I think what our Government should do is look at other jurisdictions and what they have been doing.”

He said that Bermuda needed to follow the example of governments such as those in Ireland and Norway which have intervened to ease the cost-of-living pressure on people.

Irish leaders recently pledged to hand out an energy credit of $200 to pay towards electricity bills regardless of household income.

And it has also slashed public transport fares by 20 per cent from April until the end of the year.

David Burt, the Premier and finance minister (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

In Norway the Government has substantially increased housing benefit to help with heating costs.

The PLP’s 2020 General Election manifesto promised to “reduce the cost of living” in Bermuda.

It stated: “The PLP recognises that the main contributors to the high cost of living in Bermuda are energy, healthcare, housing and food prices.”

The party said it would tackle the situation by lowering interest rates to reduce the cost of mortgages through the formation of a Bermuda National Digital Bank.

And it promised to cut the cost of prescription medicines, deploy solar installations “throughout the island” and bring in healthcare reforms

Mr Furbert’s comments come after he said in April that the Government had “dropped the ball” on the living and minimum wages while not doing enough to combat the cost of living.

Mr Furbert said at the time that workers were leaving the island for better prospects overseas.

He said: “They see no future here for them in Bermuda.

“And until the country can recognise and, by extension, the Government can recognise, and until we can address a lot of these issues around social inequality, they are not going to get better, they are going to get worse.”

At the time, David Burt, the Premier, refused to answer questions put to him in person by The Royal Gazette on the minimum/liveable wage and whether he was going to address the concerns of workers.

The Government has defended its record by pointing to a temporary freeze on gas prices and minor reductions in payroll tax for the lowest waged in the February Budget.

The Royal Gazette has asked the Government what it intends to do about the cost-of-living crisis and whether it would support an emergency summit on the issue, but has received no replies.

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Published June 02, 2022 at 8:00 am (Updated June 02, 2022 at 8:32 am)

Union leader demands emergency summit to address cost of living

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