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House: Caines responds to prison officers

Prison officers on the lawn outside Parliament on Friday (File photograph by Jonathan Bell)

The Minister of National Security defended the work he is doing for the Department of Corrections in the House of Assembly on the same day that prison officers marched in protest of pay and working conditions.

Wayne Caines spoke during the Motion to Adjourn on Friday to say he could not allow the Prison Officers Association’s assertion that it did not have confidence in him to go unchallenged and said that he saw the march as an opportunity.

Craig Cannonier, Leader of the Opposition, argued that now the Progressive Labour Party was in power, it sees marches as a positive thing and said that Bermuda is starting to see “what is becoming the new reality” of unrest.

Mr Caines said: “They [the prison officers] talked about the issues in the prison. In front of me I have the maintenance talks in one hand, in the other hand a list of items they are working through on a weekly basis.

“I cannot let this go unchallenged — the narrative cannot be that this minister and this government do not concern ourselves with the members.”

Members of the Prison Officers Association marched against having no pay rise in a decade, mould and other unsafe working conditions, and the government’s demand that they pay into the Government Employees Health Insurance scheme.

Mr Caines outlined numerous measures that had been taken under his watch, including the recruitment of 25 new officers and 22 more going through the recruitment process, and inspection in September 2018 and cleaning regime put in place.

He also spoke to improvements in AC units, replaced telephone and camera systems and a plan that is being worked on for mosquitoes.

“How can we not share all of these things that are being done on a daily basis and one says we are doing nothing?”

Speaking of the march which took place on the lawn of Parliament on Friday morning, Mr Caines added: “Some would say that that was a show of strength — it was a positive strong excursion of strength — it was exercise in democracy. When they march on Parliament they are our brothers and our sisters.”

Mr Cannonier said: “What has become the next reality is an education march. What has become the next reality is a prison march.

“When the president [of the Prison Officers Association] asked if he had confidence in the minister he said no. There is more to this story that needs to be addressed.

“What has become next is work to rule. What is next is 12 months of declining retail sales. What’s next is business closures.

“What’s next is increased cost of living.”

David Burt said he was happy to accept the responsibility for the changes that needs to be made.

The Premier added: “The structural changes that we are making within our economy may take a long time and there is a little discomfort with the transition.

“The manifesto which this Government was elected on — we still have confidence that it is the right way to go. We are still committed to executing that better fairer Bermuda.”