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Public service job cuts call hypocritical

President of the Bermuda Public Service Union Jason Hayward. (Photo by Akil Simmons)

Too often some members of the public are eager to blame the Island’s woes on public service employees rather than on the policies and political decisions enacted by our politicians.

It appears as if many in this country would like for all to believe that the Government’s financial woes are a result of having to pay public service employees’ salaries. Despite the claims that the public service is overstaffed and bloated, there has been no comprehensive analysis done to determine the optimum number of staff required to run the public service.

It is important to note that the role of Bermuda’s public service is to serve society so that its citizens receive benefits to enable them to enjoy the standard of living that they do in Bermuda.

These services include defence and security, law and order, education, healthcare, physical infrastructure, transportation, telecommunications, revenue collection, etc.

However, taxes are needed to fund these services. The priority should be to ensure that adequate taxes are collected rather than placing additional financial hardship on our public service employees.

It is hypocritical for persons to continue to call for the reduction of public service jobs and wages while there are private sector companies who are not paying their fair share of taxes. The emphasis must be on shared sacrifice and a rebalancing of the burden.

When persons call to cut public sector jobs, have they given critical thought to that suggestion? If the Government was to cut the public services employees, what next? As there are declining jobs in the economy, where do the displaced find alternative employment? What industry is hiring mass numbers of employees? Where would persons who have been made redundant find money to survive? Will this then result in an increased need for financial assistance? Let’s keep in mind that in 2014-15, approximately $53 million was spent on financial assistance, with 2,727 persons receiving government support. Can we afford to increase this burden?

Without public service employees, the country simply cannot function. Public service employees are taxpayers. They are also the largest employee consumer group on the Island. They are professionals dedicated to providing a service to this Island. They also have families to support. Despite the continuous attacks, public servants have remained productive with many having taken on additional tasks due to a reduction of public service employees.

Public servants have sacrificed in the past two years by saving the Government a significant amount of money through taking furloughs, a cost-savings initiative that originated from the BTUC. As a condition of the acceptance of furlough days, the BTUC insisted that the Economic Tripartite Committee be formed in an effort to work collaboratively to seek ways in which to address our existing negative economic conditions. In addition, public service unions made an unprecedented step by assisting the Government with expenditure reduction by suggesting approximately $65 million in cost savings — many of these suggestions came directly from public service employees.

The BPSU will remain committed to encouraging our members to provide quality public services while at the same time defending public service employees against unwarranted attacks on their livelihood.

• Jason Hayward is the president of the BPSU