Molly Burgess praised as a ‘true, true trade unionist’
A labour stalwart who marked 51 years of full-time service was celebrated by MPs today for her dedication to workers’ rights.
Helena “Molly” Burgess, the general secretary of the Bermuda Industrial Union, was described as a “true trade unionist” when legislators congratulated her in the House of Assembly.
Jason Hayward, the Minister of Economy and Labour, said: “She has fought hard for the workers of this country for decades.”
Derrick Burgess, the Deputy Speaker and former Bermuda Industrial Union president, said Ms Burgess had known him most of his life and described her as a “special person”.
He added: “Molly is a true, true trade unionist. She works, still works hard and she worked hard throughout her years.
“One thing I must say, during Labour Day, Molly would bring the whole family to the celebrations – the march and, those that were old enough, to the banquet."
The Deputy Speaker said that Ms Burgess taught him a great deal and he appreciated her efforts for the island’s workers.
Cole Simons, the leader of the Opposition One Bermuda Alliance, told MPs that the trade unionist performed “with aplomb”.
He added: “She sacrificed a lot for the people of this country, so I applaud her for her service.”
Michael Weeks, the Minister of National Security, asked: “Can you imagine that it was 50 years ago when Ms Burgess started on this journey?
“Not much can we do to continue to say how grateful we are to have known her.
“I’ve always admired her, so my hat goes off to her.”
David Burt, the Premier, said that Ms Burgess was "without question, a stalwart in our community“.
He added: “One of the things that is important is that the Government recognises and records the history of persons.
“It was pleasing for me that the Department of Communications and CITV had a long sit-down with Sister Molly so she could record the history and speak about all the things which she’s been through.”
Ianthia Simmons-Wade, a PLP backbencher, said Ms Burgess was committed to workers and loyal to Bermudians.
She added: “She has very much played a significant role in labour in Bermuda, and for that I thank her.”
Ms Burgess started working in the hotel industry while still in high school and became interested in worker's rights when she worked at the Elbow Beach Hotel in the 1960s.
She was made secretary of the Elbow Beach group at the age of 27 before going on to become chief shop steward, then secretary, of the BIU's Hotel, Night Club and Restaurant Division.
Ms Burgess became the recording secretary in 1968 and by 1971 she was seconded to union headquarters for six months to serve as assistant hotel organiser.
In an interview withThe Royal Gazette in 2014, she said: “Once I was at union headquarters and saw the injustices going on throughout the island, there was no turning back.
“I knew that was my calling, this was my career, to be a full time trade-unionist.”
She took on the additional job of assistant general secretary of the BIU in 1979 and became the general secretary in 1983.
Mr Hayward also congratulated the Bermuda Public Services Union – where he was an executive officer for more than ten years and served as president until November 2019 – on its 70th anniversary.
Mr Burgess associated himself with those remarks and added: “Without unions in this country, where would we be?"