Founders’ Day reminds us of union sacrifices
Here in Bermuda, we have recently been experiencing the challenges that flow from trash not being collected. It is unsurprising and understandable that many, if not all of us, are upset about the trash build- up. After all, there is nothing positive about unsightly and smelly trash being left out for nearly a week.
Much to their credit, public works minister Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch and his staff have gone to great lengths to not only explain the challenges but address them with proactive measures.
For that, we truly thank them.
Chief among the issues the workers faced are:
• Shortage of vehicles
• Damage caused to vehicles via improper waste disposal by residents
• Shortage of staff
Naturally, there will be those who disagree with sanitation workers working to rule for what is basically an essential service.
Conversely, there are those who understand that the workers are merely exercising a right afforded to them so they can have matters of urgency addressed.
This is a crucial right provided to any worker who is part of a union.
Over the past 100 years, various unions have been formed to protect Bermudian workers from unfair and unsafe working conditions.
The Progressive Labour Party, as the name suggests, is a labour party developed over the years from the minds of many union stalwarts such as Mr Austin Wilson, Dr E.F. Gordon, Dr Barbara Ball, Mrs Dorothy Thompson, Mr Ottiwell Simmons and so many others.
First, let us take a moment to honour some of those labourers who have recently gone on to glory:
• Brother Eugene Blakeney
• Brother Kenyatta ‘Burning Spear' Young
• Sister Carolyn Young
• My friend and mentor Brother Maynard Dill
There are many different ways to be labour. Whether driving a sanitation truck, a taxi, a cruise ship through the channel or driving international business deals from the XL building, we are all part of this great machine that keeps the Bermudian economy floating.
Indeed, we are all labour.
The challenge is that we must make it fairer for all workers.
Let us remember that alongside our union partners, the following has been established for all workers in Bermuda:
• Sick leave
• On-the-job safety regulations
• Paid vacation
• Maternity leave
• Pension plans
Let us not forget that it was organised labour that stood firm during the following historic moments:
• Belco Riots, 1965
• Island-wide strike, 1981
• Court injunctions, 1992
• Furlough day protests, January 2015
•Pathways to Status protest, March 2016
• Airport protests, December 2, 2016
Indeed, when others ran from the situation, it was organised labour that fought and won those battles for all Bermudians.
Unfortunately, only 25 per cent of the Bermudian work force is presently unionised — Bermuda, we can and we must do better.
Brothers and sisters, no matter what your profession, we need you to join a union to not only protect your rights, but to protect the rights of our future workers.
Organised labour must be in both the boiler rooms and the boardrooms.
In the words of the Honourable Alex Scott, the former Premier: “The haves will continue to have and the have-nots must have.”
On Sunday, I will stand on a podium at the Willowbank Conference Centre to deliver the keynote speech at the 54th Annual Founders' Day Banquet.
I will stand as someone who comes from a family steeped in the union, as a proud member of two unions, a labour MP and, most of all, a Bermudian.
I will stand and remind my fellow workers that no matter if you are blue collar, white collar or pink collar, let no one divide us.
United we stand. Divided we fall.
• Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him at WhatsApp on 599-0901 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org