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Furlough days likely to end

Jason Hayward

The Government employee furlough policy, designed to curb public sector expenditure and reduce the annual budget, is unlikely to continue beyond March 31.

Bermuda Public Services Union president Jason Hayward said that a five-point Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) between the Bermuda Trade Union Congress and the Government, which allowed for the institution of mandatory unpaid leave of one day each month for all Government workers, comes to an end on March 31.

The MOU was signed July 22, 2013 and the furloughs commenced in September 2013.

Mr Hayward explained that if the policy, which impacts the approximately 5,000 persons employed by Government: “ ... (were) to be continued after March, the membership must accept it.

“I don’t think the membership will accept an extension of furlough days. Agreeing to a furlough is one thing, but living with it for two years is another,” he said. “Some members have struggled financially due to the furlough.”

The MOU also included an Early Retirement Incentive Plan package, and a pledge to set up a tripartite committee, which was to include business, unions, and Government, to advise on economic matters.

Now, a separate working group that includes union representation, set up to make recommendations to Minister of Finance Bob Richards towards a five per cent budget expenditure reduction target, has placed new cost-savings proposals on the table, he said.

Mr Hayward would not reveal what the proposals were. “I can’t discuss what we’ve agreed to in the working group, because it has to be approved by the Minister of Finance,” he said, adding the Minister, Bob Richards, should decide whether he supports those proposals next month.

However, he did say: “We are working with the Government to ensure we don’t have to take pay cuts or job losses.”

The estimated cost savings of furloughs were $21 million annually, which means the furloughs saved approximately $34 million, said the union leader.

“The cost savings from the ERIP are still being realised as the posts associated with persons that took the ERIP package remained unfilled for a two-year period.”