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Union should drop adversarial approach

March 5, 2012

Dear Sir,

I am a trade unionist at heart and perhaps will never change. After more than 35 years of active trade union participation, I recognise that trade unions should be seen as partners not adversaries. I take issue with my colleagues, the Presidents of the Bermuda Public Services Union (BPSU) and Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU), regarding the issue of privatisation. The BPSU suggests that “they will not stand for privatisation”, while the BIU suggests “privatisation would be a disaster”. Additionally, examples of failed privatisation efforts were given as reasons for not pursuing the selling off of Government Services.

However, my colleagues failed to mention successful privatisation ventures: for example, Ontario, Canada had a successful water works venture (Ivey Business Journal, July 2001); Trinidad and Tobago had a successful communications venture (OECD Report, August, 2004); and England and Wales had a successful water works venture (OECD Report, August, 2004) to name a few.

While it may be easy to find failed privatisation ventures and suggest that privatisation for Bermuda would be a calamity, they ignore the fact that Bermuda is a part of the global marketplace and privatisation is alive and well in the global marketplace, as governments, states, provinces and islands struggle to cut costs, balance budgets and streamline public services to make them more efficient. I would remind my colleagues that privatisation of public services was considered in Bermuda in the late 1980s, when Tourism, Transportation and the Post Office were targeted.

Privatisation is not the end-all for employees and union members; For example, the International Labor Organization (ILO) working paper, “The Social and Employment Consequences of Privatisation In Transition Economies: Evidence and Guidelines” (Martin, B June, 1995) concluded in part, “if privatisation is to yield strong benefits to society as a whole, it must be managed in such a way as to ensure transparency, equity, and fairness” p.29. The working paper continued: “Such an approach requires that social and employment dimensions figure through the process … the process itself reflects the principles of social partnership and sound and effective industrial relations practice” p.30.

Given the ILO’s conclusions and Bermuda’s position in the global marketplace, my colleagues should re-think their adversarial approach to privatisation and find ways to work with all stakeholders.


St George’s

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Published March 06, 2012 at 1:00 am (Updated March 06, 2012 at 7:58 am)

Union should drop adversarial approach

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