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Fahy: OBA will fulfil 2,000 jobs promise

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Michael Fahy (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy remains confident that the One Bermuda Alliance will create the promised new 2,000 jobs before the next election.

However, he denied the suggestion that the jobs would only be short-term positions created through the America’s Cup in 2017.

Sen Fahy told The Royal Gazette: “I don’t believe with the assessment at all that this will be just an artificial lift and, let’s face it, even if that were the case, isn’t some short-term employment better than none at all?

“This is not to say that’s all we are doing. Sometimes there’s naysaying for the point of naysaying. I think that we will see tremendous success in all of these projects and long-term success in the [service] industry.”

Speaking in an interview with this newspaper this week, Sen Fahy said he has heard there is a degree of reluctance in the community to take up positions in the service industry, even though the Government is working to make sure long-term opportunities are available to Bermudians.

“I have spoken to a number of restaurateurs and one hotelier who said they have a slight concern they will lose a number of Bermudian staff who will go into construction because they believe that they will make more money, although it’s not as long term as a service industry position, and that’s disappointing,” Sen Fahy said.

“We are making every effort to rebuild that, the Minister of Tourism Development and Transport is doing a phenomenal job, and that obviously has a knock-on effect in the Workforce Development Department.”

Last week, Bermuda College lecturer Mr Simmons warned that the America’s Cup risked being oversold because it would deliver an uplift of mainly temporary jobs in areas such as construction and food service.

Asked if the Government was betting everything on the success of the America’s Cup, Sen Fahy said that the pledge for 2,000 jobs came before the event was on the cards.

Noting the progress on the St George’s and Morgan’s Point hotel projects, he added: “These types of projects would have continued whether we had America’s Cup or not. Obviously, it has given extra confidence to the developers of the various resorts. Obviously, the America’s Cup was a major boost for Bermuda. Is it favourable for employment? Absolutely.

“I think the Bermuda Economic Development Corporation has done a superb job in getting the news out there as to what small businesses can gain from things like the America’s Cup. Is it great? Fantastic. But are we putting all of our eggs in one basket? No.”

Questioned about his relationship with the Island’s unions, Sen Fahy said he believed the ministry had done a “very good job” of having open dialogue with the unions, notwithstanding increased tensions in recent months.

Noting recent reports that Government members would not be invited to speak at Labour Day festivities this year, he said: “I have yet to have an official word on that, but I believe that the unions as a collective have taken a stance that, as a result of having taken proceedings against the unions to ensure that they follow proper procedure before taking industrial action, they are not willing to be in a participatory mode with the Government and that’s disappointing.

“The Ministry of Home Affairs has the Labour Advisory Council who meet on a quarterly basis, but the unions have refused to participate, which is disappointing because I take the view that, notwithstanding the fact that you might have disagreements in a certain area, it shouldn’t prevent at least ongoing dialogue between the minister and the unions.

“Obviously we support the union movement, we support the labour movement, and inasmuch as we are not being asked to participate, that’s for the unions to make that decision.

“The position I have always taken is that there is a labour law and collective bargaining agreements in place. Members and unions should follow the law and should follow the collective bargaining agreements before taking industrial action, and I don’t think that anyone can really dispute that position.”

The senator said that he had not had much official interaction with the unions recently, but he maintained that he has left an open door for dialogue with the various unions.

“We are here to listen, to help as best we can, and that door remains open no matter what seems to be in the eyes of the community or the eyes of whoever may not support what the Government is doing,” he said.

“I have not had any open dialogue in an official capacity with the union leadership for some time. I think the last meeting we had I was with the Premier and that was some months ago.

“We have sent a number of letter advising that we would be more than prepared to continue with the Labour Advisory Council meetings. The response at this stage has been no while there is ongoing issues.”

<p>Immigration tribunal decisions coming soon</p>

New decisions by the Immigration Appeals Tribunal are set to be published later this month, potentially changing the shape of immigration.

Speaking with The Royal Gazette, Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy said: “We will be publishing sometime in September a number of rulings made by the Immigration Appeals Tribunal that have had an effect on the way different cases have to be handled going forward in the department.

“A lot of these, again, people are going to be concerned, but we can continue to assure the public we continue to work towards what’s in the best interest of us all.”

The Immigration Appeals Tribunal made waves last year when it found that permanent certificate (PRC) holders Rebecca Carne and Antonio Correia could apply for Bermudian status, having previously been refused by the Minister.

The Minister appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, but Chief Justice Ian Kawaley supported the tribunal’s findings.

Sen Fahy has said that as a result of the ruling more than 700 PRC holders have applied for Bermudian status.