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The world is changing, Mr Hayward

Dear Sir,

The Editor of The Royal Gazette must have had a mischievous twinkle in his eye when he put on the same page on August 6 an editorial about the fallout from insurance mergers, and the essay by Jason Hayward, of the Bermuda Public Service Union, arguing that calls for public service job cuts is hypocritical.

Eliminating jobs is not fun. It is painful and everyone has sympathy for those who suffer. But it is a necessary part of economic change.

For example, 100 years ago most Bermudians would have worked in agriculture, growing onions and lilies for the US market, or they would have been carrying out household chores for the Royal Navy or the British Army.

Both types of jobs have disappeared in what economists call “creative destruction”. Less productive and lower-paid jobs are superseded by more productive and better-paid jobs. No doubt people were wringing their hands about the loss of markets when the development of refrigeration made the import of agricultural products from Bermuda unnecessary, and when the British military for strategic reasons eventually left.

Would it have made sense to try to preserve such jobs, and would we be better off if that preservation had been successful? To ask the question is to answer it. No, we would not — even taking into the account the pain involved in making the adjustment to tourism and international business.

Mr Hayward wants the Bermuda taxpaying public to stop the world and continue to do business in the same old way we have always done, and that his members be exempted from the significant changes that are taking place at present.

The world is changing so fast that what previously took 50 years is now being accomplished in ten, but people are not able to change at such a dramatic speed. Change cannot be stopped, and the old world of leaving school or university in your teens, staying with the same job and employers for 40 years, and retiring with a generous pension are gone. Job security is now something of a myth.

Mr Hayward wants the taxpayer to ignore these facts of life so that his members are spared the pain that many private-sector taxpayers have experienced.

He also mentions that the public service is not overstaffed and bloated, and there has been no comprehensive analysis done. What about the Sage Commission? It drew attention in no uncertain terms to the disgraceful way the public service functioned. What about young Mr Henagulph who gave chapter and verse about the way public servants took advantage of weak management.

Maybe Mr Hayward should check the RG of September 5, 2013, when it was reported that the city of Weston, Florida, with 65,000 residents — about the same as Bermuda — had contracted out 100 per cent of its services and that the entire city had a staff of only nine, a budget of $121 million and some of the lowest property taxes in Florida. Wow, how do they do it?

He also mentions that private sector companies are not paying their fair share of taxes. Who exactly is he speaking about? And if he is right, why are the public sector employees not taking action in court against such delinquents.

Then he mentions that there should be shared sacrifice between public service workers and private sector workers. In his recent Budget statement the finance minister mentioned on page 28 that there were 3,000 people looking for jobs and that none of those had been made redundant from the public service — none. All came from the private sector, the very people he says should be paying for the benefits of the BPSU members.

Nowhere does Mr Hayward mention where the money to continue to pay salaries and benefits will come from. Bermuda is massively in debt; there is no money; business is facing difficult times, although there are signs of progress.

After almost 15 years of staggering financial incompetence by the previous government, it is not surprising that life is difficult for the public sector. Life is difficult for almost everyone.

May I just repeat that the Bermuda is broke, busted, on its heels, and it has massive debts to service and pay back.

To say that those who call for public service job cuts are hypocrites is possibly the most hypocritical statement made in 2015.

ROBERT STEWART

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Published August 08, 2015 at 9:00 am (Updated August 08, 2015 at 1:50 am)

The world is changing, Mr Hayward

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