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Civil Service does not equal good service

Dear Sir,

I am writing because an incident this afternoon (Thursday) leads me to question the priorities of the labour movement in Bermuda.

This incident seemed particularly revealing as citizens take time to reflect on the contributions labour has made to society, and as labour appeals for support from the public.

Last night’s final ferry leaving Hamilton for Warwick was inexplicably cancelled — there was no information posted at the ferry terminal advising passengers of this information, nor is such information posted to the ferry’s website.

Were it not for a Newstead ferry passenger running breathlessly over to advise my disabled wife that the Warwick-bound ferry was cancelled, and the Newstead ferry was willing to take her, she might well have been stranded there.

To reassure my wife, I called the terminal this afternoon to confirm the final Hamilton to Warwick ferry was running.

The employee who answered interrupted me to say it was running, and that it left at 8.30pm.

Since that was not the correct time, I tried to clarify whether it left at 8pm.

He interrupted me several times to insist (wrongly) that I’d asked after the Hamilton to Dockyard ferry before finally acknowledging the correct time. I ignored his desire to erroneously insist I’d asked after a route we had no interest in and instead followed up by explaining that — since my wife is disabled and the cancellation of her transportation was more than a matter of inconvenience but is a potential danger to her health and safety — we wondered whether there was a website or alert mechanism to find out about future ferry cancellations before she arrives at the terminal.

The employee interrupted me no less than four times to inform me that if I was unhappy the ferry was cancelled, I could come in and register a complaint, and that he had other matters to attend to.

Since my goal (at least, before that moment) had not been to register a complaint, I had to repeatedly ask him to stop and listen to what I was actually asking, finally learning that, no, the Department of Marine and Ports has no way of notifying the public when a late ferry has been cancelled.

Sir, as alarming as that admission is, my concern is something else altogether.

We have been continually reminded in newspaper articles and press releases and radio talk shows how important labour is to the public, particularly leading up to this weekend.

It has not escaped my notice how coarse and discourteous and aggressive much of our public discourse has become.

Has this quality begun to affect the attitude of the Civil Service towards the public, the people they are supposed to be serving?

Numerous interactions with ferry staff and some bus drivers suggests the answer is yes.

My question is, if labour, in the form of the Civil Service, does not appear to care about providing good service to the public, why should the public care about labour?