Part II Opinion: Commissiong On Unemployment

November 9, 2014

[Opinion column by PLP MP Rolfe Commissiong, a follow on from Part I which can be read here]

I guess the question I must pose to all of you is, how is that “shared sacrifice” idea that the OBA has been touting, been working out for you lately?

Certainly, we know that with regard to significant numbers of the unemployed – most of whom are black as previously highlighted – the OBA’s pre-election pledge to produce a bumper crop of jobs continues to ring quite hollow.

And despite their recent climb down with respect to their decision not to move forward with the Public Service Reform bill during the upcoming legislative session, there remains a palpable disquiet among government employees that their employment security remains at risk.

The government and/or public sector is the largest single employer in Bermuda and with approx. 90% of those workers coming from Bermuda’s black community it is also the largest single employer by far of black Bermudians.

When one therefore attempts to produce a demographic profile of the typical Bermudian who is carrying the brunt of the so called shared sacrifice called for by Premier Dunkley and his OBA government, I suspect it would most likely look like a 41 year old black Bermudian male and/or female, with one or two kids earning about 48 thousand dollars per year.

We too in the Progressive Labour Party believe that their will have to be some sacrifice in order to address our fiscal challenges, where we differ is that we are vigorously opposed to the so called sacrifice falling disproportionately upon those least able to afford it.

As the Shadow Minister for Human Affairs which includes Workforce Development, one of my most significant concerns is the terrible waste of human talent and potential as a consequence of current economic conditions.

This cannot bode well in terms of our social cohesion and ultimately societal stability. It is also personally disappointing, in that the former PLP government did so much to modernize and advance the goal of bringing workforce development to its deserved position of prominence with respect to overall governance.

One of the key policy goals was to strongly align education and training with the real world economy; and therefore provide the necessary tools for the Bermudian worker so that they could more fully compete; not only locally but globally as well.

It has been really difficult to witness as I previously noted in terms of my own constituency, the number of educated and qualified people, such as a recently minted young female lawyer or the veteran banker – both black professionals – who are without work in this economy, as the floodgates of immigration are opened wide again under the OBA.

Recent policy decisions – as noted – which have been adopted by Minister Michael Fahy, with respect to Immigration, such as the “Bermuda Employment Visa” and its companion piece, the “New Business Work Permit” will have the very real potential of further marginalizing Bermudian workers, such as the bright young lawyer mentioned above.

In other words, we run the real risk of negating any gains in education; and on the workforce development side of the equation, by creating policies that result in more Bermudians either becoming mired in long term unemployment; or choosing to take their considerable skills and talents elsewhere.

Increasingly, Bermudians are once again beginning to realize that it is the Progressive Labour Party that will protect the long term interest of our young people and workers in this country, by addressing destructive racial disparities, making immigration policy’s work on behalf of Bermudians and not against them, and by fostering greater diversity in our economy.

Our proposals, by way of successive replies to the respective throne speeches and replies to the budget over the nearly two year period, clearly outline our commitment to create new revenue streams for growth. They also aim to facilitate a more dynamic entrepreneurial culture that will result in a broad based economic empowerment of our people and place us at the forefront of economic innovation and social justice.

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Comments (20)

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  1. Christopher James says:

    I am stunned that Rolf waited until the second sentence before he brought colour into it.

  2. Triangle Drifter says:

    What would Rolfe know about working? Has he ever had a real job? After a brief stint at express banking he spent time at public expense. He then emerged as a fulltime talkshow caller through the 90s & early 2000s. Remember his catch phrase while campaigning for the PLP. “The UBP failed & they failed miserably.” With the PLP in power he was rewarded with a very lucrative ‘Consultants’ paycheck at public expense, of course. What did we get for that? Anybody? We got the hate bucket stirred up.

    Now he is out of a job, besides the backbench MP thing, croaking away looking for a lilly pad to sit on & be noticed.

  3. Get A Life says:

    never a good comment or positive statement rather a chance to play race card. how to help the island rolf, In case you MISSED it we are all in this together white/black/pink or green. Looked in the paper letely or Bda job board, guess yo will be anti Americas cup as well.

  4. Rick Olson says:

    I guess no more BS consultant jobs for the writer ?

    • Family Man says:

      And neither does he, nor his medical friend, have any influence over the government or hospital purchases of those cheap no-name knock-off drugs from India. On to the next business plan then.

      • Are you positive ... says:

        Are you positive that his medical friend has no more influence? If you are that places you firmly in the minority.

  5. boarders says:

    Rolf needs to go see an eye doctor cuz all he EVER sees is black and white! Whats up with this man?! does Bermuda need this type of politician? U make me sick to my stomach! SMFH!!

  6. Elaine Faber says:

    And hopefully you were objective and mature enough to read beyond the second sentence to finish the article.

    No? Than you should take a deep, long look at why RACE bothers you so much.

    Black people in Bermuda is a reality, and a majority of Blacks in the public sector is also a reality.

    However, I think that the new legislation proposed by Senator Fahy will have dire consequences for both black and white professional Bermudians as ‘key employees’ will have the unfettered flexibility to displace a professional Bermudians irrespective of gender, race and/or number of years in the company. Key employees will trump Bermudians and once the ‘tensions’ set in, we will then be faced with ‘Bermudians hate foreigners’ propaganda from the OBA.

    • Creamy says:

      Key employees have been around for a decade or so. The concept was introduced by the last government. Mass unemployment was also introduced to us by the last government.

    • No need ... says:

      Elaine, there is no need for any propaganda from anyone on the Bermudians hate foreigners front. Xenophobia is alive and well and is regularly being fanned by Rolfe and his ilk.

    • Christopher James says:

      Yes Elaine & was objective & mature enough to read it through. Rolf can make some good points but his message gets lost in his race based agenda.

      He is the columnist equivalent of an x rated comic. After a while he better say something funny – cos the F word is no longer doing it for me.

      He’s not the first nor the last to do this. But his readership will continue to fall if all he does is moan about race. After all, that’s why PLP lost the last election. People realized that they had nothing of substance to offer – just the same daily blaming everything on racism.

  7. Thunder Man says:

    I got to the fourth word before i stopped reading! anything from Commissiong is not worth reading nor any more of my time commenting on

  8. The Underground Movement says:

    ahhhhhhh – Nothing new here – all the usual stuff! – heard it before and your going to hear it again.
    Commissiong is just trying to get into the Political mix’and make some form of dent.

  9. Solution? says:

    What is your solution, then? Raise taxes on IB, and chase all the jobs away to Cayman? That will be great for Bermuda, get rid of all the ex-pats and everyone can work for the government!

    I would suggest that the “recently minted young female lawyer” does her articling overseas to get some experience and that the “veteran banker” simply apply for jobs, because if he is actually qualified, banks will not be able to choose an ex-pat over him.

  10. Elaine Faber says:


    Key employees immigration policy was first introduced by the UBP as far back as the 1970s in the hotel industry. This policy stepped on many Bermudians in terms of unfair labour practices and spilled over into wildcat strikes that pulled in labour divisions from all other areas of the workforce.

    This very flawed policy pitted Ottiwell Simmons (former BIU leader) against the late Sir Henry Vesey (the autocrat who created this policy). Remarkably these men were both very strong willed, bull-headed individuals and neither wanted to yield, so Bermuda paid the price in wild-cat strikes and tension that brewed as the policy was forced upon the hotel industry.

    In reading these comments above, there is a pretence that the social quality of life for medium earing Bermudians (both black and white) was somehow superior because money was to be made under the UBP. The UBP left this island riddled with social ills as they used economic marginalisation to settle scores and rewarded those subscribed to their political ideology.

  11. Elaine Faber says:

    @No Need…

    What came before xenophobia? Slavery, racism, institutional racism? Xenophobia did not breed in a test tube, it manifests through flawed government policies.

  12. A Better Bermuda says:

    Where does he get off saying not everyone is feeling the sacrifice of the PLP’s failure? The audacity of that assumption is nothing short of insulting. The PLP drives away expats and their disposable, trickle down income and now he questions unemployment? Why didn’t you speak up when the damage was being done to your people by your own party? Do you honestly expect us to believe that your party would be doing anything different right now to try and get whatever business we can get back again? Try being part of the solution for a change instead of always trying to ride for free on the gravy train

  13. Just a matter of time says:

    If we get past the personal attacks against Rolfe, is there anything he said that was not true? And tell me when did racism cease to exist in Bermuda? I missed that memo. Because if it does not exist, why are the employment and unemployment demographics still exactly the same or worse compared to decades ago? When has racism (according to this board) become no longer an issue in this society? Does anyone here see lately, how even the mere mention of race is now being created and displayed as a taboo topic with frquency? As if not saying it somehow makes it all go away. And yet discussing it somehow makes you a trouble maker. How utterly convenient. Again I ask, have we reached a post racial utopian society where discussing this topic is no longer relevant in Bermuda now? No longer necessary? Support evidence of this wonderfully sustained utopia is greatly needed please because I really really need to know this and spread the good news. Now, if it is admitted that we are NOT living in a post racial utopia, then I ask WHEN is it EVER a good time to discuss it publicly? Bear in mind that the words ‘race’ and ‘black’ and ‘white’ will be used when it’s discussed unless other more convenient safe words are used instead for that frank discussion. Oh wait, that’s happening now with the currently adopted myriad of code words and phrases for those who don’t want to look like ‘trouble makers’. So much for the benefits of frank discussions. A people who do not learn from the history of their past are doomed to repeat it. Bermuda is well on its way in that regard. Smh.

  14. Elaine Faber says:

    @Christopher James…

    I take your comment, “He is not the first nor the last to do this”, refers to Dr Eva Hodgson?

    Because the same type of coordinated attack by writers (in this case by letters to the Editor regarding Dr Hodgson) would respond, en masse, attempting to discredit Dr Eva Hodgson because she single-handed educated blacks on the affects of slavery, racism and institutional racism without setting foot (because she was economically marginalised)in a classroom to do so. She deserves the Noble Prize for her fearless continuation to give the race relations debate a legitimate voice.

    Because the same type of coordinated bullying attacks are being transferred and demonstrated here as Rolfe puts issues of race on the table. But I’m not advocating for a Noble Prize for you, Rolfe.

    However, there are aspects of Rolfe’s argument that I do not agree with, such as, in modern day Bermuda blacks are not the only ones who have sacrificed and/or will continue to sacrifice; what about many white Bermudians who face challenging times? Are they not worthy because they are white? Are you (Rolfe) just seeing and advocating for the plight of blacks rather than the plight of advantaged Bermudians irrespective of skin colour? For not all whites have been privileged, there are a lot of Portuguese Bermudians who have been exploited in Bermuda.

    Statistics may place blacks far behind whites in earning capacity but that is not a legitimate reason why those few whites who find the system very unfair should be ignored, pushed aside and/or forgotten by both political parties.

  15. Sally says:

    Thanks for your valuable comments Elaine Faber and Just a Matter of Time! Best on this thread! Look forward to reading more from you soon!