Opinion: “A Turning Point In Bermudian History”

January 27, 2015

[Opinion column written by Chris Famous]

People get ready, there’s a train comin’. You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board” – Curtis Mayfield

Monday January 26, 2015 will be marked in history as a turning point in Bermudian history.

5,000 Bermudians of every age ethnicity gender and profession converged upon Union Square to hear the contents of a letter sent to the BTUC by the government of Bermuda.

A spirit of unity and solidarity permeated the air. Elders who had been on the frontlines of the civil rights movements in Bermuda over fifty years ago stood shoulder to shoulder with persons in their twenties. They spoke of the mass meeting in the very same spot thirty four years ago in 1981

A loud cheer went up as the executive of the BTUC emerged from the BIU building signifying that the meeting was about to commence. True to civil rights tradition the meeting commenced with a prayer.

Delivering the prayer was Rev Nicholas Tweed whose father Rev Kingsley Tweed stood on the front lines of the Bermuda civil rights movement fifty years ago. Instinctively persons began to hold hands with those standing next to them for the duration of the prayer.

holding hands

For the next twenty or so minutes Bermudians heard the time line of negotiations between the government and the BTUC which had led up to that very moment.

As the letter which had been delivered to the BTUC on Friday was read aloud there seemed to be collective sense of mass violation of one’s basic human rights

Indeed the Bermuda government had essentially stated that if the workers do not give up a furlough day then they the government will take measures to cut persons pay

crowd one

Get up Stand up. Stand up for your rights was the music that pumped out of the speakers. It pretty much summed up the mood of the crowd at that point in history. Bermudians have been slowly but surely rising up over the last year with each march growing in numbers.

A feeling of immense pride and collective strength was felt among the thousands who marched towards Front Street and onto cabinet grounds at one point in time there seemed to be not enough space to contain the totality of humanity

As I walked around one topic was the constant theme. Bermudians must stand united in these times. We must show those that wish to disrespect us and oppress us that we are not backing down.

Most importantly we must show each other that we will stand together in the sun and in the rain.

Umbrellas

My fellow Bermudians, like many of you I shed tears to see us fully embrace and utilize the power of one. Continue to stand firm and stand united. We are not turning back.

All you need is faith to hear the diesels hummin, You don’t need no ticket, just thank the lord” - Curtis Mayfield

- Chris Famous can be contacted via email at Carib_pro@yahoo.com or Twitter at @ryderz777

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Comments (43)

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  1. San George says:

    We are all in this together people. If the DEBT is not arrested and decreased there will be pain like you have never seen before. Easy is better than hard. We will not be the first group to disregard the warning. The providers of the loans will own you to pay the civil servants in the short-term will own all of us in the long-term.

    • Mark says:

      The problem is the underprivileged will have to make pay cuts while the privleged is untouched.—from this ideolgy comes unrest – in this case the Union is called take action.
      If unjustified acts didn’t happen to the common man the Union would have never been created.
      The Day the Govt.of the Day said that they are looking for more savings – the underpriviged new right away were it was coming
      from.– so there acting on it.— what other weapons do they have!
      Plenty of unrest to come —- the Train of Political unrest will roll all the way to the next election.
      All this Social and Political unrest is starting to look like the 1980′s.

      • And I'm sticking to it says:

        AGREED!!!

      • Skeptic says:

        The privileged vs the underprivileged is a problem of western society and to substantially reduce the difference between the two you need either a different form of system, such as communism, or an extremely enlightened government focused on social welfare, such as Norway. We have a capitalist economy predicated on making wealthy people happy to bring their business to us, and despite numerous governments, we have never had an enlightened or for that matter a competent government, and frankly I don’t think we will ever see either an enlightened or a competent government – very seldom do you ever see competent leadership last. So we need to muddle through this with care and compassion for our fellow citizens and put political and religious spin aside to make Bermuda a better place, or alternatively, destroy the capitalist model and those who remain, can live in relative poverty, perhaps happier in knowing that they are just as impoverished as their neighbors.

      • hmmm says:

        Who are these privileged? Do you have access to their financial information, or are you just guessing?

      • BTCHECKER says:

        Referance to 1980′s (which has nothing to do with today) to start the fear factor – Check

        Reference this is rich vs poor – Check

        imply this is some consipracy to keep “underpriviged” down – Check

        Ignore all facts and statistics in respect of the economy – Check

        Ignore all facts in respect of how we got into this mess – Check

        Ignore the fact that more underwriters accounts and “priviledges” lost their jobs last year than government workers – Check

        Encourage a position that will in fact be worse for the underpriviledged – Check

        I.e. make it worse for the very people that need help – Check

        Make it easier for the “priviledged” to actually look down on workers and entrench the position even further – Check

        Ensure it all goes to hell – Check

        Well done leaders of the union. your “brothers and sisters have lost”, but you and the privilged have won.

        sigh

  2. Guest27 says:

    Sadly this whole situation will not unite us. It will pit the public sector workers against the private sector.

  3. Sandgrownan says:

    Well that’s a whole pile of stupid right there. The only thing remarkable is the astonishing collective inability to understand that the choices are 1 pay cut, 2 redundancies or 3 furlough day.

    • twinkle toes says:

      so i’m guessing if you were given the option, or forced into the option as it were, you’d gladly take one of the three without complaint, considering you don’t have enough to make a living off of to begin with?

      • inna says:

        So a government job is the ONLY job you are capable of doing? Put yourself out there in the private sector and compete for one of those “Cushy” jobs as you unioners put it!

        No one is making you keep your job with the government. You obviously want to keep it for a reason. Does uh, no accountability for personal development, excessive sick days taken whenever felt like, entitlement attitudes ring any bells?!

        • Yes have a look at the carried forward sick days (40, 80 & 120 days in some cases) and vacation – private businesses do not have such and it is killing Govt.

          • Tiger Lily says:

            Where is the report on this? Your comment I imagine results from having seen a factual report.
            Where I work, many of us would like cash in return for sick days carried forward. We get the work done whether sick, in hospital or on vacation, to ensure that the work is complete. No matter how we slice up the workload, there is more work generated than we have staff in some departments. Some of us are denied vacation or do not take all vacation for the same reasons.

      • Yes that's what we are saying says:

        If the alternative is to run the business into the ground so NO ONE has a job, yes, we would take the best option without complaint.

      • hmmm says:

        Yes I would !

        and Yes I did !

      • Sandgrownan says:

        Yup

      • theothersidebermuda says:

        Not saying the facts aren’t heartbreaking but to clarify, in the private sector, you don’t get an option. You just come in that day and are told you are let go. That has happened to many people already on this island and more to come in the intl business sector.

        • Tiger Lily says:

          Why talk about what the private unionized sector does when the issue here is the unionized government sector?

  4. JD says:

    Sorry I’m not buying this whole attempt by some to paint this situation as some sort of struggle for worker’s or civil rights.

    This isn’t about fighting for rights, public versus private sector, black versus white or whatever other confrontation you may want to try and manufacture to hide past mistakes.

    This is just about bad politics leading to bad policy running head on into economic reality.

    Nobody should blame the civil service or the workers that attended meetings or marches, they’re just people trying to earn a living who will bear the brunt of this reality and are rightly angry.

    Unfortunately their anger is being purposefully misdirected. It’s a classic magician’s trick – look over here, here’s the people who are to blame…whatever you do don’t look at me, what I did, or my numbers!

    Let’s have a look at the numbers though. Between 2002/2003 and 2010/2011 the Bermuda government added 1066 jobs. Just to put that into perspective in 2002 the Police, Fire, Public Transportation, and Post Office together employed 1076 people.

    Why did we need to add over 1,000 staff in a few short years? The population only grew by about 3%, we didn’t add any land, or open a second airport, and visitor arrivals were consistent with what we had in the late 90s.

    So what happened?

    I’ve got a theory.

    I think that the political leadership at the time believed that they were elected to right past wrongs, and past wrongs there were. The way they decided to do this was to hand out a bunch of jobs that weren’t really needed as a way to give additional income to a segment of society that had been wronged, and pull that segment up the social ladder.

    A fortunate political outcome of this was that it aligned government work and government workers with the party. Vote for the party and you’ll always have a job at government. The more people we add to the government payroll the more votes we’ll get in exchange.

    Just in case you were wondering this is poor short term political thinking at its worst, which is poor leadership – it’s just not sustainable. Building a bigger bureaucracy is easy, paying for it is hard.

    Starting in 2004 we couldn’t pay for our government, so we borrowed. We can’t borrow anymore, so unfortunately all those unnecessary jobs are going to have to go which is going to be hugely disruptive. Also we’re left with $2b in debt for no real benefit. This is what you get when you choose poor leaders who choose poor short term unsustainable solutions for political expediency. That’s what we got with the PLP.

    It’s a real tragedy, but what really pisses me off is those people who would attempt to shirk responsibility for being the architects of this problem by manufacturing a class struggle to hide behind. Workers’ rights? Civil rights? Nice try but I’m not buying it. I see you behind that curtain.

  5. e says:

    “Most importantly we must show each other that we will stand together in the sun and in the rain.”

    Well ****, it’s not like you were going to work today.

  6. Skink says:

    I call “B*******”……..there is a very severe tide coming and it’s going to drown many. I HAVE SAID IT BEFORE……I have been out of work since July and would be most glad to “furlough” for the sake of my fellow workers keeping jobs and having one myself.
    Most of these workers have no clue what it’s like not to be able to pay bills or provide for their families. Absolutely clueless :(

  7. Joonya says:

    Historic is right Chris. Where entitled public employees who think they are immune from unemployment will be the catalyst for Bermuda’s downturn.
    I’m glad I saw ‘Lets Talk’ last night because I understand a little better the Union’s position. Selfishness on both sides? Yes.
    Are Chris and Jason tying to play ‘Finance Minister’ now?!
    Furlough was in place of job termnation. Be greatful you still have a job!
    So I cant help to think that the Unions are being more selfish here.
    If the company I work for says that it only has enough revenue coming in to sustain 8 employees, and it is paying 10 employees, I cant expect them to continue to absorb the expense for 10 emplyees and still make a profit, and therefore exist as a company. If I demand them to continue to pay me and my 9 friends, then I should also expect the business to eventually close, and then guess what.. we all LOSE our job!
    Why can you not get that Chris/Jason and members??
    Why do you think you should be exempt from the harsh realities of our state of economy? Please explain. Please.
    I really hope that common ground is achieved today. This is now affecting employees in the private sector who are having to deal with their children today. These companies are having to pay for no productivity out of their employees today because of your entitlement attitude. Stop the selfishness.

    • ListenUp says:

      If every company contributed a proportionate amount of their income or paychecks to aid in the financial debt of the economy- this would be most fair to all citizens and it would also expediate the process of gaining revenue to address debt. Shouldnt keep taking from the same pockets- there are much wealthier or equally wealthy citizens/companies still existing in bermuda that should be contributing just as much or even a bit more than govt workers. In other words- the more financially priviledged should contribute more than the less financially priviledged- proportionate to net income. Its only fair and it should prove to be a worthy solution

      • AL' Azur says:

        I concur..tax them more as they can contribute more so they should as we are all in this together and we are all responsible for this debt ,right? We are all part of this social compact,right? aren’t corporations classified as “persons” now? So wealthy folks and “persons” out there, be equitable & help this country that has undoubtedly provided or at least increased your wealth.

  8. Just a matter of time says:

    @ Sandgrownan. And there is where you are wrong. There were and are other choices other than using ONLY the civil servants to close the deficit and take us out of debt. These have been submitted already to Govt as stated by the union. If they can find $77 million for AC35 they can find the money. There is simply no willingness to use these suggestions because it doesn’t fit their agenda. However pissing off civil servants who have tried for years seems to be the far easier thing to do without real thought to the consequences. The easy way out is to cut pay on a group that has already made the effort. Not good for social relations. The savings are there!

    • LiarLiar says:

      The Terms of Reference of the agreement between the Union and the Government was to find a min. of $67mn of savings. The Union couldn’t fulfill their side and thus the only option to make up the gap is the furlough day.

      So please stop with the lies that the Union suggestions have been ignored. The Government agreed to their proposals, but also noted they were not sufficient to meet the agreed upon goals.

      If the furlough day is off limits then the Unions need to find the remaining funds to be cut that won’t affect the worker’s pay packet. If not, then we are simply delaying the inevitable.

      • Claudio says:

        Actually the Union came up with most of the savings while the Heads of Depts only came up with 5 million.

        What the general public fail to realize is that during negotiations, furlough days were never on the table until last Friday. Then you expect an answer by Monday.. 7 working hours? Seriously?

        Then when the unions want to discuss a way forward, you keep delaying the meeting – lack of respect.

        The issue is that lets try all avenues before the reinstatement of furlough days. After all options are exhausted and the only options are redundancies or furlough days then put the decision to the membership. Don’t try to shove it down their throats… while you say we are heavily indebted (which we are) yet you find $77 million for the Americas Cup on a HOPE that we get a windfall of revenue.

        I am usually suspect of Unions, however I believe they are justified in this.

        • LiarLiar says:

          After identifying $37mn of cuts that did not affect the workers’ financially, how much left over do you think there is to reduce that won’t affect the pay checks of the civil servant?

          The civil service wages consume 50%+ of Govt expenditure every year which requires borrowing to sustain. No Government or company in the history of the world can continue to operate if they are borrowing annually to cover simple operating costs. Borrowing should be only to fund large capital projects and for economic stimulus.

          Now add annual interest payments of $100mn+ results in two thirds of Government expenditure being solely on wages and debt payments. That leaves little to nothing left over to finance infrastructure upgrades, investments in social programs etc.

          I don’t know what was on the table as the Premier just stated furlough days were discussed as evidenced in the minutes of the Committee meetings. Just because the Union said they weren’t on the table doesn’t mean the Government agreed.

          The AC is an economic stimulus program that is being funded without further borrowing which makes sense. The previous administration didn’t adhere to basic economic principles of saving during the good times and use these savings to stimulate the economy during a downturn. Instead they did the exact opposite and here we are now needing austerity during our deepest recession ever. So yes the AC will provide income both directly or indirectly.

          The event itself will stimulate several private sector industries while increasing employment and by extension taxes and fees paid to the Government. Hundreds of thousands of people tune into the AC if not more. It is not like their love of sailing will change by 2017. We will all benefit including the civil service.

        • Sorry and I would bet a Million $ that the Unions proposal were so out of touch that they would have never worked anyway. I have seen some of their proposal before.

    • Cut them in half says:

      The obvious choice is to cut from the civil services because there are WAY too many of you! Why does an island of ~65,000 people need 5,000 civil servants? Answer: it doesn’t. That’s why they can take an average of 40 sick days a year and the island keeps going. We should cut the size of government in half.

    • Sandgrownan says:

      You need to look beyond the end of your nose.

  9. Unbelievable says:

    Well if only he got the date at the beginning right it might make some sense.

  10. Dave Jones says:

    Ok, this used to work in primary school: We have 10 hungry people and only 8 apples. We can either let 2 people starve or we can cut the apples into 5 pieces each and everyone can have 4 pieces of apple.

    • Toodle-oo says:

      Even that wont be understood.

    • Fed Up! says:

      That’s what I’ve been saying as well. They are demanding a whole pie when there is no whole pie to give, take your slice or have no pie. I don’t understand how they are willing to starve rather than take the slice and its a rather large slice at that. What makes civil servants better than the rest of us who struggle and work 2-3 jobs just to survive, will we be fighting for the rights of the private sector next?

  11. hmmm says:

    The real travesty, is that once again School kids are left to miss out on education.

    Nice one Unions.

    • Tiger Lily says:

      The best teachers are outside of the classroom. Employers who care will use many options in times like these. Set up in house care centres, Allow staff to work remotely from home.
      On the other hand, anyone who has been unemployed could use this opportunity to be child carers if this is their fortay. What do you do when students are on vacation? Use this as an opportunity to let your children learn

  12. Jeremy Deacon says:

    I wonder how history will remember this day…..

  13. sebring says:

    hey I don’t know how to suggest this! so how about the opposition lead by example and voluntary take a 20 percent pay cut ! and 30 percent for the opposition leader as it was their frivolous spending that nested this situation! Let the OBA follow suit and then offer to cut every civil service above 100 thousand by 15 percent and all others a pay cut of 7 percent and freeze all wage increases for the next ten years. Cap all food prizes at 60 percent above those sold in the states ! cancel all nursery payments for mothers making 25,000 or more a year and Cap What the nurseries charge at 125 per week per kid including gov grants. rid of all Government vehicles should be a start also not just the ministers cars only keep small cars for health dep and int trucks for w and e ,parks etc.to many snot nose workers with baby seats in Gov vehicles and unnecessary pick ups… also hire an external hr firm for future hires !Nepotism in it’s highest form Bermuda!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. JUNK YARD DOG says:

    Will the bombs fall tonight mummy ?” Go to sleep my dearest , if you are asleep and a bomb hits our house you will not know.