BIU’s Furbert says PLP failing to protect Bermudian workers
The leader of the island’s blue collar union has accused the ruling Progressive Labour Party of an attack on its core support.
Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, hit out yesterday as he demanded stricter enforcement of work permit rules to protect Bermudian workers.
Mr Furbert claimed the Government was not tough enough on companies that broke work permit restrictions.
He highlighted that 46 work permit categories were restricted.
Mr Furbert said: “The Government needs to have a policy that if employers are violating the restrictions on work permits, maybe the Government says to them work permit approvals will be restricted for the next three years.”
He added that the BIU had raised the problem “many, many moons ago”.
Mr Furbert told the Government: “You have restricted categories – If they are restricted, then they should be restricted.
“Draw a line in the sand. Enough is enough. Bermudians are not being treated fairly in the workplace as relates to restrictions.
“It is time now for us to put up the red flag and start penalising employers.
“The Minister of Labour now has the remit of approving work permits. I don’t think the Government is being tough enough.”
He said the PLP had lost its moral compass, had done nothing in the past five years and had failed to protect Bermudian interests.
Mr Furbert was speaking after Jason Hayward, the labour minister, said that the Government had heard complaints that “many” employers were laying off Bermudian workers rather than work permit holders in the wake of the economic fallout of the Covid-19 crisis.
Mr Hayward said there was a perception that the trend had happened across the economy, but especially in the hospitality industry.
Mr Furbert said the BIU was “very concerned” by the claims.
He insisted: “It is not the ‘perceived’ treatment – Bermudians are actually being laid off. That is happening and it needs to stop.”
Mr Furbert told the PLP government: “If you were given a clear mandate … that you should be taking care of the needs of the people of this country and you’re absolutely not doing it … what have they done for the people of this country in five years? What?”
Mr Furbert backed the Reverend Nicholas Tweed, who earlier claimed that the PLP had lost its “moral compass” over a scandal that involved disgraced former senator Curtis Richardson and $19,000 rent arrears owed to an elderly former landlady.
Mr Furbert said: “The Government’s lost their moral compass? … I think the BIU was saying pretty much the same thing. We said that.”
“We know for a fact 85 per cent or 90 per cent of our membership vote for the PLP. Why would you want to take on your base?
“There are people speaking everyday, speaking about how the Government has lost its way.
“So, it’s not just coming from the Reverend Nicholas Tweed … its also coming from other members within this society saying that the Government has lost its way.”
But Mr Furbert stopped short of calling for Mr Burt to face a leadership challenge at October’s party conference.
He said: “That’s for the PLP to deal with internally.”
Mr Furbert added that the union has been in negotiations with Gencom, the firm behind the proposed redevelopment of the Fairmont Southampton Hotel.
Legislation for government-backed support for the reopening of Bermuda’s biggest hotel is to go before the House of Assembly.
Mr Burt said the move would “provide certainty to the various investors who stand to inject over $200 million into this redevelopment”.
Mr Furbert said: “We have negotiated a separate agreement with Fairmont Southampton. It was agreed last October/November. Progress has been made.”