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Time to reduce the cost of public-sector workforce

April 10, 2013

Dear Sir,

Time was that public paid employees, be they government, municipality or quango, received less in wages or salary than their private-sector counterparts. In return they received almost guaranteed employment for life, handsome benefits and a pension plan to die for. Public servants do tend to look after themselves first, but the country we could afford it.

Over time things began to change. In the UBP mid-90s, a new goal surfaced, it was the race was towards Bermudianisation. Bermudianisation carried out appropriately is good for Bermuda as more jobs held by dedicated and appropriately qualified, knowledgeable and experienced Bermudians meant more money staying and being spent in Bermuda. A win-win for all and progress was steadily made into the late 90s to put in place programmes that would allow Bermudians to take over jobs previously held by guest workers. We all know that by the time the UBP lost power to the PLP in 1998 that there were around 5,000 public paid employees in Bermuda. A very high number for such a small population, but the Country could afford it.

Under the PLP the number of public paid employees increased to around 8,000. The workload did not significantly increase. Public paid employee wages and salaries increased to the point where they were sometimes higher than their private sector counterparts and now, in some cases significantly so, as private sector wages and salaries, particularly within the local company sector, have declined. Job security and benefits for public paid employees remain generous and in many cases far superior to those available within the private sector. Government was becoming very expensive but as of 2007, the country we could afford it.

One can only speculate as to why the size of the public paid workforce increased by 60 percent following the introduction of Bermudianisation. Was Bermudianisation undertaken at any cost? Were the Bermudians selected to fill positions appropriately qualified, knowledgeable and experienced? If not were others employed to help them get the work done? Were consultants and private contractors employed because the new Bermudian post holder was unable to do the work formally undertaken by a guest worker or retired old-school Bermudian? Were Bermudians promoted to positions above their ability? It is still virtually impossible to sack a publicly paid employee and the senior managers of the public services will protect their own and not permit the public to be aware of any identified shortcomings. Better to hire another Bermudian, a consultant or a contractor, but now the country can no longer afford it.

The private-sector employee has borne the brunt of the recession and while the primary cause will continue to be debated, it is history and we have to try to move forward. Bermuda is in a perilous financial and social situation and the OBA must find the testicular fortitude to quickly and significantly reduce, not the number but the cost of public paid employees so we can balance the 2014-15 budget and start to pay down the debt and not just the interest.

Voters for change demand action now

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Published April 11, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated April 10, 2013 at 9:01 pm)

Time to reduce the cost of public-sector workforce

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