Union head threatens summer of discontent
Bermuda could be in for a “long, hot summer”, according to the Island's Trade Union Congress — which wants more inclusion from Government in the debate over cost-cutting reforms to public services.
Bermuda Trade Union Congress (BTUC) head Alan Wilkinson yesterday announced that the group expected a prompt response from Premier Michael Dunkley to its request for a meeting, in the aftermath of the Public Bodies Act being sent to the unions for review.
“We feel we have not given the proper consultation — therefore we feel that if this continues, it's obviously going to be a long, hot summer,” the BTUC president said.
While Mr Wilkinson didn't elaborate on the meaning of his remarks, he hinted at growing impatience and anger among union members who felt sidelined while Government examined spending and saving measures.
Earlier in the year, Finance Minister Bob Richards described the Public Bodies Act as a strategy for “moving some government operations out of government” by way of outsourcing and mutualisation, while preserving jobs.
That legislation, along with a move by Mr Richards to drop the cost of living increases from Government's underfunded pensions system, stood to have “a grave effect on our membership”, Mr Wilkinson said.
On the matter of public service reforms currently under consideration by Government, Mr Wilkinson said the union had been sent “documentation” to review, and had requested an extension.
Asked if the BTUC was sympathetic to Government's financial plight, Mr Wilkison replied: “We are sympathetic, so much so that we engaged in a Memorandum of Understanding” — a reference to last summer's deal with Government on furlough days for public sector workers.
“The fact that they can't find the money is not good enough. We need to be consulted, in order to put our heads together. Maybe we can come up with an idea of how to assist as well.”
He said the union members were becoming “extremely disgruntled” at not being included by Government, adding: “At this point, it could be considered disrespectful.”
Mr Wilkinson said: “We consider ourselves to be stakeholders. If we are going to keep up our end of the bargain, and it's not going to be kept up on the other end, then obviously we are in for some difficult times.”
His remarks came following a meeting at the Bermuda Industrial Union Headquarters, according to acting BIU president Glenn Simmons.
“We're waiting for a meeting with the Premier and we're waiting for a quick response,” Mr Simmons added.