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BPSU: Cutting public-sector jobs is not the answer to Govt debt woes

Union bosses are urging Government not to slash jobs in the Civil Service as part of its drive to reduce the cost of running the country.

The concerns were raised following the publication of an article in yesterday’s

Royal Gazette by Brian Duperreault, chairman of the Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission.

Mr Duperreault noted that the commission would “have to give unpopular guidance about Government spending” before pointing out that 70 cents of every dollar Government earns is spent on worker salaries and benefits.

Last night Bermuda Public Service Union General Secretary Ed Ball said he sympathised with Government’s predicament — but questioned whether Commission members were qualified to unearth cost-cutting solutions or were instead more interested in finding ways to privatise services.

He said a more collaborative approach was needed and that alternatives to axing jobs were available to Government.

“I do have sympathy with the Government because I know the reality of the situation and I know that we are that close to the edge,” Mr Ball said.

“The Government has to do something — we’re in a hole and, while everyone may know that the situation in Bermuda is dire, it’s a lot worse than most people realise.

“But in order for the economy to function, you need people to work. If there are fewer people in work, that will result in them having problems with their mortgages so the banks will suffer. Stores will suffer because people will have less money to spend, they won’t be able to spend money on activities for their children. So cutting jobs is not the answer.

“There seems to be the view out there that the private sector has suffered enough and now it’s the turn of the unions. Right now a lot of stuff is being done to garner a lot of angst against the Civil Service. There needs to be a collaborative effort, rather that trying to paint the Civil Service as some sort of monster.”

Mr Ball said Bermuda could follow the example of Barbados and introduce austerity measures such as shorter working weeks, price controls and salary freezes.

“In its election platform, the OBA talked about shared sacrifice but plans could be put in place such as those that were introduced in Barbados,” he said.

“Right now, I do not see that collective urgency. I see a lot of people moving around, but it’s like politics in America right now — you have the extremists in the Republican and Democratic parties setting the agenda. What about the liberals in the middle?

“I am hoping is that representatives from the private sector and Government and the Trades Union Congress can all come together and work together to see what we can do for the betterment of Bermuda.”

Bermuda Industrial Union President Chris Furbert could not be contacted for comment last night.

But one BIU official said there was a concern among members that Government was intent on cutting jobs in the blue collar sector.

“I do agree that Government is spending too much money, but there are other ways of saving money than just cutting jobs,” the official, who asked not to be named, said.

“Perhaps they could cut jobs in the administration side of the Civil Service, where you may have too many people doing one job or too many trainees or whatever.

“But the blue collar workers have been suffering and there are alternatives to job cuts. For example, Government spends hundreds of thousands of dollars providing sets of uniforms for workers and they’re just not needed.”

BPSU general secretary Ed Ball

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Published June 14, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated June 13, 2013 at 11:57 pm)

BPSU: Cutting public-sector jobs is not the answer to Govt debt woes

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