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It’s not union bashing, it’s common sense

November 24th, 2013

Dear Sir,

Having served within Government over three decades I have worked with a good number of qualified, dedicated and productive public sector employees. I have seen works undertaken that are of benefit to the public served and also seen the reverse where seat warmers and shovel leaners do the absolute minimum. I am not sure that Bermudianisation, which effectively started in the mid 1990s, was a good thing for Bermuda as some of the paper qualified seat warmers have been elevated to levels of management way beyond their abilities. Poor decisions made over the last 15 years are evidenced by the number of projects and purchases that have been made with absolutely no regard to value or benefit, which happened less noticeably before when both qualifications and appropriate experience was a requirement for appointment or promotion.

Over the last 15 years, whether to compensate for poorer management or not, the number of warm bodies employed by Government and Quangos, has grown uncontrollably. I suspect that everybody acknowledges that the number of public sector employees, paid for by the private sector, is unsustainable but that supporters of the former government and the unions will publicly deny it.

Excluding international businesses, who most of us are not employed with, the private sector has been downsizing for five years, eliminating positions where value cannot be positively measured, reducing health and pension provisions and cutting work days, wages and salaries by double digit percentages. I am the typical private sector employee whose taxes help pay our public sector employees. Can anybody within the TUC justify why I, who has seen a significant reduction in my take home pay, health coverage and pension plan, should continue to pay taxes to support an overpopulated and under achieving public sector work force who get better salaries, health and pension benefits than the public they are supposed to serve?

The TUC leadership, which, by and large, represents Government employees, is obviously going to be opposed to privatisation. Without thousands of Government employees, who will pay their six figure salaries? The TUC leadership will no doubt label any further plans to reduce inflated salaries, health benefits and pension provisions as “Union Bashing”. If Bermuda were still as prosperous as we were under the old UBP and reductions in benefits were sought I would agree wholeheartedly that union bashing was on the agenda. However, Bermuda is broke and we all know the primary reason; an average $100 Million dollars per year for 14 years added to public sector employment costs.

We have no option but to terminate Government programmes that have no or limited value to the public. We have no option but to privatise services that can be better managed in the private sector. The 5% reduction in pay for less hours worked was welcomed but it doesn't scratch the surface of what is needed. We have no option but to reduce the cost of Government by around $250 million a year.

Our political party system makes government politicians look for short term solutions that won't negatively impact their re-election prospects. What is needed for Bermuda to stop the haemorrhaging, promote healing and then growth will take very hard decisions. Promises will have to be broken. Does the OBA have the testicular fortitude to do what is needed before it is too late?

Old Bermudian and former union secretary

Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert shakes hands with Bermuda Union of Teachers president Mike Charles and the other union heads after joining the Trade Union Congress. (Photo by Mark Tatem)

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Published November 26, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated November 26, 2013 at 8:19 am)

It’s not union bashing, it’s common sense

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