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Why recklessness is not an option

Work stoppages: The scene at the bus station during a labour dispute back in 2011. Our columnist says as Bermuda moves into a new era of diversity, everyone must work together

Emotions can overflow during any disagreement, whether it is politically based, or is a part of experiences in everyday life.

Throughout history, nations have been tested by situations that involve either cool and rational thinking, or blatant recklessness without concern about consequences in pushing their objectives.

Bermuda has endured considerable work stoppages and strikes over this or that issue, and although there may have been some occasions when industrial action, usually taken as a last resort, has brought about a better understanding between management and labour, relations still have a nitroglycerin tone at times that is not good for promoting stability, which is essential if our economy is to improve to make it more viable for job growth.

The chairs around the table for negotiations between the Government, management and unions should never be empty, no matter how long they have to sit to work out differences.

When talks break down, the door swings opens for action that might not be in the best interest for either side in the long run. In fact, the people of Bermuda could feel like economic hostages, justified or not, if a labour dispute threatens the painful struggle under way at present, to inject momentum into a troubled economy.

A headline carried by the American Armed Forces radio station in 1981 was blunt and chilling. The announcer began with the words “Bermuda is closed”. An island-wide strike had effectively shut the Island down, and to this day some feel we never fully recovered.

No one in their right mind would want to hear such a headline again. It is one thing to shut down our economic machine, but restarting it is another matter.

When a major airline goes on strike, pilots in flight don’t shut the engines down to support industrial action. We all know that would be incomprehensible, since passengers on board would be victims of a dispute they had nothing to do with. The same logic should be applied to industrial confrontations on our small Island. In other words, at all times the people, and that is all the people, should be given the utmost consideration before taking action that could plunge the Island into a bigger economic nightmare.

Recklessness should never be an option in solving labour problems, no matter how difficult they may be.

Our leaders must exercise restraint during moments of anger-filled exchanges, which most Bermudians know stems from the unfortunate dark period of social injustice.

Those chapters cannot be rewritten, and as Bermuda attempts to move into a new era of diversity never seen before, we need to close ranks in building a future for those students from different races now sitting together in our schools, who will be carrying the torch for the next generation.

Many of our problems will not be solved by the Government, the Opposition or unions. Ultimately, for further progress, there will have to be a combined effort of all three, along with the people, in keeping proper values such as respect, honesty and truthfulness on the front burners at all times.

The home will always be the best place to plant the seeds towards that goal.