“Workers Need To Be Treated With Dignity”

October 9, 2017 | 63 Comments

“We value the contribution of guest workers in this country,” Minister of Home Affairs Walton Brown said, explaining that what is problematic is when employers “contrive to ensure that Bermudians do not get fair opportunities” or want “highly exploitable labour.”

Speaking in the House of Assembly, Minister Brown said, “As the Minister responsible for immigration, let me say very clearly and categorically, we value the contribution of guest workers in this country.

“We know that since 1609, people have come here to work, some came voluntarily, some didn’t. Since 1609, we’ve had people coming here to work. Our economy depends on it, we need people to come here to work.”

Audio extract of Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown speaking in the House of Assembly:

“What is problematic, is when you have employers that either contrive to ensure that Bermudians do not get fair opportunities, or they simply want to ensure they will get the lowest cost…cheap labour and highly exploitable labour. ”

“For example, just this week, I rejected a work permit application because somebody wanted to bring in a nanny and pay them $900 a month. That’s not going to happen. It’s just not going to happen anymore.

“We want to have foreign workers, but they need to be treated with dignity and respect. You cannot have a system that brings in people, and have a highly exploitable labour force. We’re not going to allow for that.

“When I hear comments repeatedly about the cost of labour….you know that they want to bring in cheaper labour.

“My final point, is that the fundamental different between the Progressive Labour Party, and the One Bermuda Alliance, is the emphasis on people versus the emphasis on profits.

“If all you focus on is profits, the people can be completely marginalized,” the Minister said, “The people of this country came to a judgement on that very issue on July 18th.”

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Comments (63)

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  1. aceboy says:

    Your example of a nanny has what in common with profits? Nobody is hiring a nanny to run a business.

    Any more examples? Or just the one?

    • Koolaid says:

      With the nanny It’s not about profits it’s about the “highly exploitative workforce

      • The real Terry says:

        Had to smile “We must treat our workers with dignity” Like the minister did to the person he employed.

      • aceboy says:

        Oh I know. Two separate issues. But they blend so well in politics. Bad evil nanny exploiters and bad evil profit makers…..they can all be thrown in the same basket.

    • Seniors says:

      And was that $900 inclusive of accommodation, meals, transport, taxes etc etc etc?

      What will happen now? Will that family not be able to afford the $5,000+ month which local babysitters charge? Will that family now just up sticks and leave? Not all guest workers are paid huge salaries. Many are on the equivalent package they could get in their home country, the only benefit of being here is the sunshine, and that’s pretty much it.

      • What?? says:

        “Many are on the equivalent package they could get in their home country, the only benefit of being here is the sunshine, and that’s pretty much it.”

        So we should ignore the fact that they are being exploited? We should ignore the fact that because they are allowed be brought here to be exploited it depresses the wages of everyone else?

        • Seniors says:

          I was referring to the people attempting to do the hiring, with the assumption that the $900 month came with food, accommodation etc

          • What?? says:

            Sort of like the old working for the company store. Making a employee reliant on you for subsistence is pretty much the definition of exploitation. Complain and I’ll withold your bread.

            • nerema says:

              No one is “making” anyone do anything. Other than the Minister, who apparently wants to interfere with every work permit now.

          • Point boy says:

            Can’t fix stupid

          • Kathy says:

            Even if it does come with food, accommodation, etc. $225 per week is what I used to get paid back in the 1980s in the US as a teenage babysitter. Come on now, if that is not exploitation, then I don’t know what is!

            A living wage in Bermuda should be established. I would think at least $500 per week in Bermuda would be an appropriate wage with housing included ($26,000 per year). Less than that we are paying slave labour to outside cheap labour. I agree with the Minister!!

            Obviously, if they have housing to give the nanny, then they have a big house and they can afford it!!

    • S Rego, MA (Dist), BA (Hons Merit) says:

      @aceboy Dude…really? REALLY? Alright.

      I’m going to give you (as a fellow Bermudian) the benefit of the doubt and say you’re an educated individual who takes home a cheque every week.

      Out of the cheque, let’s say you always have a certain amount of money left over after you’ve taken care of your priorities – food, utilities, etc…

      There’s a wonderful word for it – on a consumer level, it’s called, “disposable income.”

      On a BUSINESS level, it’s called PROFIT.

      On BOTH levels, it means you have money left over to do what you want with.

      On a BUSINESS level? Invest into the company, or buy yourself a “company yacht” needed for “business meetings.”

      On a PERSONAL level? Put it away for your daughter’s/son’s college education, or buy yourself a “yacht” for “de-stressing.”

      ******

      So why the nanny example? It’s a primary, factual example to put things in layman’s terms, for people from any level of education or background to easily understand.

      So let’s correlate the two side-by-side.

      If a person (read: BUSINESS) is applying for a work permit to bring in a nanny (read: EMPLOYEE) at $900 a month (read: SALARY) – a salary which can’t even get you a decent rental while living off a pack of ramen noodles and milk once a day – there’s a correlation.

      Why? Because that person (read: BUSINESS) is looking for a nanny (read: EMPLOYEE) at a low-ball price (read: CHEAP LABOUR) in order for said person (read: BUSINESS) to have more disposable income (read: PROFIT) at the end of the month (read: FISCAL MONTH).

      Ergo in reference to the nanny example, it is entirely relevant to profit.

      I’m going to say that you and I will both agree that no Bermudian, with any sense of financial intelligence or self-dignity, is going to work for $900 a month, if they want to actually thrive, let alone SURVIVE in Bermuda’s economy.

      On a similar note, when considering the nature of work that is required from a nanny, it is considered a low-skilled labour job.

      When:

      1.) Looking at core, semi-periphery, and periphery countries (developed, developing, underdeveloped)

      2.)***BERMUDA being a DEVELOPED country***

      3.) Comparing costs of living, and further comparing GNI (gross national income) and GDPs (gross domestic product),

      4.) and taking all these factors into consideration while looking at the factual example of a work permit being requested for an EMPLOYEE with a SALARY of $900/month

      This is in fact, looking for PROFIT (more disposable income) through HIGHLY EXPLOITABLE and CHEAP. LABOUR.

      For someone from a different country, either developed, developing, or underdeveloped, with a different (read: LOWER) cost of living, $900 may seem like a lot – a *bait* figure, if you must – that pushes Bermudian standards of living (i.e. standards of INCOME) down, throwing Bermuda’s GINI coefficent (look it up and educate yourself…the internet is beautiful like that), into long-term, future chaos, for locals.

      In the end, you have to focus on the locals and local knowledge, which is especially the case for Bermuda when considering its size.

      Expats may come and go, but Bermudians have to deal with the aftermath of international organisations and expats whims.

      Take the emotion out of your response and actually digest what Minister Brown is saying.

      • aceboy says:

        S Rego (sorry I am not going to add in your qualifications)

        Dude.

        Thanks for putting your leftist inspired yachting example out there. Now I am off to the boat show. Because that is where exploiters and evil profit makers gather.

        • S Rego, MA (Dist), BA (Hons Merit) says:

          @aceboy Dude…*facepalm* you didn’t get it.

          I was saying that by correlating the nanny example to profit, the low salary shows you (or to generalise, a person) that this is the type of bull people and companies will try and pull with their financial power, thus shifting the GINI coefficient.

          A GINI coefficient is the distribution of wealth amongst the people of a country. When you take a person who has a high income, who wants to pay somebody (a NANNY in this case) an incredibly low income, it radically shifts the wealth distribution, thus widening the rich and poor gap.

          The same goes for companies that are doing the same thing – it can be done on both levels – hence the yacht example (an exaggeration).

          Henceforth, no Bermudian in their right mind, knowing Bermudian economics and cost of living in the island, would take that exploitative salary.

          That’s why I said take the emotion out of your thinking.

          But thanks for equating me to a leftist, which for me is the equivalent of insulting someone’s mother.

          End of conversation.

  2. Zevon says:

    Ministerial interference in the work permit process. A few months ago they were up in arms about that kind of thing. Now he boasts about it.

  3. Wassup says:

    And without profits there will be no new jobs, without profits no dividends to shareholders so shares crash, without profits no reinvestment etc etc

  4. Wassup says:

    Yes I totally agree about treating workers with dignity and fairness but bermuda is not set up to be a socialist state

  5. local says:

    If we don’t focus on profits, our children will suffer,our businesses will suffer, and our country will suffer!

  6. Family Man says:

    I wasn’t sure I read this correctly … Walton Brown lecturing Bermuda about exploiting labour? Can we get a comment from Ms. Christen Pears?

  7. somuchless says:

    So now the Plp values the contribution of guest workers. Boy they can’t make up their mind. One min they want them all out and the next min they value and want them. I guess now they see that Bermuda needs em.

    How can you lot support these people.

  8. turtle says:

    You cannot expect paid a nany position a high rate!, probably you should look after the hours of work and no the rate! a nany position cannot be higher than a teacher or doctor.

    • Mrs Brady says:

      Teachers already make crap pay.

    • What?? says:

      $900/month is $10,800/year. I think that’s a large enough gap that there is little fear that they will be earning more then a doctor or teacher.

    • Blind Sheep says:

      No, but $900 a month for a 24/7 job is outrageous. This is not any 9-5 job.

      • Zevon says:

        This is the guy who said 6,000 PRCs would be getting status. He is not above making sh#t up out of thin air.

      • CB says:

        Nobody I know that has a nanny makes them work unreasonable hours. Perhaps you need new friends?

  9. Onion says:

    Christen Pears probably has something to say about being exploited by an employer.

  10. ian says:

    “If all you focus on is profits, the people can be completely marginalized,” the Minister said, “The people of this country came to a judgement on that very issue on July 18th.”

    I’ll be the first to agree that there is more to life than profits but …. Bermuda is not a socialist state, far from it, but companies make profits for a variety of reasons: to invest in infrastacture/ business growth/more staff/dividends for investors/tax revenue …

    The PLP through a variety of words are not making life comfortable for businesses:

    1. DeSilva says corporate Bermuda can pay
    2. Simmons says there is more to Bermuda than rugby, golf and sailing
    3. Brown undermines our Human Rights act
    4. Brown makes a very socialist statement about profits

    Where are we heading?

    • Mike says:

      We have a populist government turning sharp left.

      As Margaret Thatcher (who I hated) said, “the problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money”

      • ian mcewan says:

        Yes, I detested what she stood for, but Bermuda is just not set up for this.

    • jt says:

      Many construction company owners have filled their pockets using cheaper foreign labour over available Bermudians.

      • Spit Bouy says:

        And Bermudians have helped fill those pockets by hiring said construction companies to build their houses and buildings.

        If the W & E projects are anything to go by and the same construction companies used the same level of Bermudian workers building costs would quadruple at least and construction would grind to a halt.

  11. Joe Bloggs says:

    I think the nanny is a poor example, because she would almost certainly also get accommodation and food as part of her package. The $900 cash is spending money on top of food and accommodation.

    Government trying to dictate pay arrangements between private employers and their employees is a dangerous path to go down. Government does not know the employer’s profit margin and dictating a “living wage” is only likely to drive employers out of business and cause even more Bermudians to be unemployed. Small businesses are more likely to suffer as they have no power to fight back and limited ability to outsource tasks overseas.

  12. Politricks says:

    What he more than likely forgot to include was the fact that the position was for a live-in nanny. As such they have no rent, electricity, grocery, cable bills etc.

    And thus the $900 is straight take home pay. Sorry, but no one forces anyone to take a job that they feel is providing adequate compensation. Is this the beginning of Government dictating what wages should be for all sectors?

  13. Francis says:

    The Minister keeps making comments suggesting that the previous government did not know what they were doing. Ask the ex-chair of the board. He rejected many many many applications and many employers were fined! the policy required minimum salaries for certain positions too. Is $900 net? Is the nanny given housing, food, car? More details please. We value foreign workers but if you contributed more that 20 years we don’t want you as part of our community. We will change the Human Rights Act to exclude you. Mr Brown you speak out of both sides of your mouth.

    • Athena says:

      This situation requires more information particularly given Mr. Brown’s tendency to use sound bites on a frequent basis which turn out to be only a part of the ‘story’.

      There is a lot of playing to the gallery.

  14. mb says:

    Yes agree … and $900 a month is crazy
    But while we look at treating employees with dignity how about we also take a look at treating customers with dignity,some training and promotion around customers first would go a long way to seeing local biz want to hire Bermudians in the firts place… sadly too many in this area in Bermuda do not treat customers with dignity! Take a look on social media for a LOT of examples.

    • jt says:

      It’s not crazy if accomodation and food are included.

    • G says:

      When you bring in a “nanny” you normally have to pay for accommodation, MEDICAL, return ticket, food is part of the package. The $900 is post all expenses for the family, which will run into the thousands. Also someone mentioned that the nanny is a 24/7 job – it is not. They have working hours as per the contract and get additional payment (per the contract) for overtime. So your $900 can easily become $1,500 as cash to spend on a social life.

  15. sandgrownan says:

    ““For example, just this week, I rejected a work permit application because somebody wanted to bring in a nanny and pay them $900 a month. That’s not going to happen. It’s just not going to happen anymore.”

    Be interesting to see if that family upped sticks and bugged out. Brown really is clueless.

  16. need a job but don't want to work says:

    It is annoying when the broader (political) conversation does not even try to touch on the (well known) reasons for hiring guest workers when there are Bermudians who can do the same job. Sadly, what is missed from these statements and conversations, is that a large enough number of my fellow Bermudians (“black” and “white”) feel entitled and don’t want to show up to work when they don’t feel like it, don’t show up on time to work, or do not work steadily (a reasonable expectation) when at their job. This causes business owners to hire guest workers, that realize that they depend on having a job, and show up when they need to.

    Why wouldn’t you want to hire someone who shows up to work versus someone who is unreliable and has to be coaxed to get a job done well? Unfortunately another issue, is the low wages guest workers are typically paid.

    Would we have so many guest workers if we actually showed up to work and got the job done reliably?

    There are a host of other issues that impact the situation, (drugs/gangs/Bermudianization regardless of actual qualification/BIU) so it is very complex and can’t be completely solved solely by all Bermudians “getting on with work”.

  17. nerema says:

    This idea of treating workers with dignity didn’t apply when his own employee had to bring a lawsuit

  18. Whoa says:

    Guest workers are living off better than me. I live with a guest worker and she stays at my uncles house for $450 a month while she works two jobs as a live out care taker. She was bought here to take care of my granny that died three years ago yet, still lives in my uncles house paying next to nothing while working two jobs that pay $25 a hour 7 days out of the week. I know thats not mainly a government issue however I see guest workers living off better than Bermudians.

    • 4ner says:

      the quality of your logic suggests why you may be experiencing things they way you do

  19. nok says:

    How about they look after their own household no cheap labor around here thank you MP Brown.

    • Politricks says:

      Tell that to all the Bermudian ‘granny dumpers’ who leave their elderly family members at the hospital with the expectation that they will take care of them.

      • Politricks has it wrong says:

        whatch what you say about that- do you have elderly parents? Until you do- you will not understand that to try and provide care for an elderly parent with dementia will spend all of your savings if you are “okay” finance wise, if you are struggling, you would be bankrupt within a few months. It is not Granny Dumping- it is taking advantage of the health care they deserve after paying into the pension system for so many years- which could have worked had the PLP not wasted or stolen most of the money in the government coffers the last time around!
        Who knows what they will do this time!

  20. Rocky5 says:

    The family will now leave Bermuda and take their business with them. This is micro management and there will be negative consequences..

  21. Quinton Berkley Butterfield says:

    I sit here in disbelief as people in this comment section think that $10,800 per year is an appropriate salary for someone taking care of little human lives. That is $30 per day and if this was a 8 hour job, $3.75 per hour. If this is a live-in nanny, that (s)he would have been paid $1.25 per hour. And some people have the gall; the audacity; and/or the shameless, privileged attitude to think that this is OK. No, this is slavery, plain and simple.

    • Double S says:

      No it’s not slavery and for a Human Rights Commissioner to conflate the two is disturbing.

      Slaves had/have no choice in their lives. People responding or not responding to this ad do have a choice. No one is being forced to take this position at that pay.

      So no this isn’t slavery plain and simple.

      • sage says:

        Not chattel slavery, economic slavery, the modernized version devised by those who sought to retain and increase their power over others in such a way that all children are born indebted to a monetary system which maintains the status quo for the 1%’ers. She has no choice, if you don’t work you don’t eat.

        • S Rego, MA (Dist), BA (Hons Merit) says:

          @sage I am completely in agreement with this. It is a form of modern slavery, masquerading as supplying jobs for people…

          …and when people don’t take the bait/refuse to work for that amount, the excuse of “not being able to find skilled labour” gets dished out by employers.

          Which really just translates to “not willing to pay an employee their value”.

    • Zevon says:

      Even your comment is full of “ if this” and “if that”. None of us know how many hours, what responsibilities, or what other terms of enployment there were.
      Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s all untrue to begin with.

    • Onion says:

      900+healthcare+social insurance+housing+food=4000 per month.

      Walton tends not to tell the whole story so let’s get that first.

  22. Mark says:

    “foreign workers…need to be treated with dignity and respect” but they don’t deserve human rights?

  23. LongBay Trading Inc. says:

    Hey aceboy………………are you allowed to call yourself “aceboy”???? just asking……………..

  24. Thank you, Walton.

  25. Aware says:

    Did Bermudians apply, and if they did, were they interested in the live in arrangement with $900 per month free and clear spending money after expenses? If they did, then the Minister has a good point. If they did not want to live in (which i suspect) I believe he is wrong. If a famiiy wishes their nanny to live in and is paying all the living expenses (by renting a bigger house, buying more food, having an additional cable box etc) then they are contributing to the economy. Also we need to remember that a nanny is a very personal appointment – parents need to be completely happy with who is looking after their children. If they are not, they will not stay.

    I think the Minister has good intentions, but this is the wrong example to fight. Pick a restaurant or construction worker next time.

  26. Blueboy says:

    I really hope one day Bermuda gets rid of all immigrants. Then finally, Bermudians can realize how worthless that little rock is without expats. Also, stop sending Bermudians overseas, hypocrites. I wait for the day I can see a Bermudian in my country and yell in their face “go back to your country” “You’re not my people”

  27. JUNK YARD DOG says:

    THE PAPER TIGER.

    Most of the social issues in this country are prefabricated as we see far too many petty issue after petty issue which seek to divide us into the so called “Two Bermuda’s “the latest catch word slogan.

    Our economic survival requires every one regardless of our respective tallents to participate towards the One Bermuda .

    Its all about the team spirit, stop the negativity .

    We are competing against the rest of the world, one of our biggest problem is “Reducing the cost of living” where every one wins ,reducing taxes in tune with the seasonal economy will help.

    We need to find an economic balance, money for old rope.

    ” The man who works from 9 to 5 has nothing . The man who works from 9 to 9 has every thing.”

    Our stigma “Bermuda is too expensive” has driven our visitors to other destination; are we building empty hotel rooms ?

    We are living beyond our means as the national and private debt and social programs can not be sustained.

    We and the banks have to find a better way of doing things.

    Living one day at a time, is a defeatest attitude.

    “If you can’t do something, find 5 ways to do it. “

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