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MP calls for ‘affirmative action style programmes’ to close income gap

Shadow Minister of Workforce Development Rolfe Commisssiong

Government must implement “legislative options including affirmative action style programmes” to close the gap in wage disparities on racial lines, Rolfe Commissiong believes.The move would ensure equal opportunity and racial equity in Bermuda where there are “significant levels of inequity in pay based on race and national origin”, the Opposition MP said.The 2012 Employment Survey showed that “foreign workers earn on average, 40 percent more than Bermudians”, the Shadow Minister of Workforce Development said.White workers continue to earn more, he said, “despite the end of overt racial discrimination in employment and economic opportunity”.The divide, “which was fairly high at 40 percent in 2007, has actually grown”, he stated.Said Mr Commissiong: “Clearly at least with respect to the employment market, there are two Bermudas, one white, one black and becoming more unequal.”He recommended that immigration policies be toughened and enforcement measures strengthened to address the marginalisation of black, Bermudian workers.“The PLP stands ready to join with the OBA to begin the hard work of turning around these unacceptable trends because we believe that neither Bermuda’s economic nor social cohesion can be maintained without eliminating this disparity,” said Mr Commissiong.He urged Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy to call a tripartite meeting to include trade unionists and business leaders to address the issue. But he conceded that “Government alone cannot empower the black community”.“We must encourage a cultural renaissance, which promotes entrepreneurship and self-determination within our community and in the generations that follow.“While not everyone can be a business owner, we must begin to examine ways that we can successfully create businesses for ourselves, employ ourselves, and employ others. We must envision a Bermuda where determined black Bermudians face no obstacles to employment, self-determination or empowerment.”He continued: “Education and workforce development is only part of it. Studies have continually shown that blacks and whites with the same qualifications will experience disparate outcomes in the workplace with respect to employment, promotion, salary and benefits.“We must envision a Bermuda where determined black Bermudians face no obstacles to employment, self-determination or empowerment.”