BPSU: Recognition Of International Workers Day

May 1, 2020 | 1 Comment

[Written by BPSU President Bro. Armell Thomas]

On International Workers’ Day, workers have historically united across the globe to commemorate the struggles and gains made by workers and the labour movement.

This year, in light of the devastating health and socio-economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the recognition of International Workers’ Day brings a heightened awareness of the fragility of the workers’ rights and benefits; rights and benefits which have taken the labour movement years to secure.

The Bermuda Public Services Union [BPSU] recognises the far-reaching impact that the pandemic has had, and will continue to have, on workers and the Island for the foreseeable future.

While the number of workers in Bermuda who are unemployed as a result of the pandemic has not yet been officially determined, the Government reported on April 20 that over 9,100 persons had applied for unemployment benefits. Of those persons who have applied, over 5,000 have received benefit payment [or partial payment], with a total payout estimated to be $7.1million. With a labour force of 33,180 [Dept. of Statistics: 2019 Employment Brief], the 9,100 recipients of the Covid-19 unemployment benefits equate to a staggering 27% of all Bermuda’s workers. Even more sobering, it is acknowledged that not all those without work due to the pandemic have applied for the benefit, and as a result, the number of unemployed is most likely higher.

Bermuda is not alone

On April 29, the International Labour Organisation [ILO] reported that the drop in working hours in the second quarter of 2020 is expected to be 10.5%, equivalent to 305 million full-time jobs as a result of shutdown orders. Additionally, 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy – that is nearly half of the global workforce – stand in immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed with an estimated drop of 60% in their income. Without alternative income sources, these workers and their families will have no means to survive.

BPSU - Intl Workers Day Bermda April 30 2020 (1)

These are still early days

The full impact of the pandemic is yet to be known both here and globally with much depending on the length and the scope of shutdown restrictions. Given the interdependency of the global economy, Bermuda’s impact and subsequent comeback will be, to a large degree, reliant on the rest of the world.

Urgent policy measures are needed

The Union calls on both Government and employers to implement urgent, targeted and flexible measures to support workers.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted Bermuda’s deep-rooted inequities and gaps in our country’s social safety net. It is vital our social protection system be reviewed, revamped and properly resourced. It is time for a national discussion around the implementation of unemployment insurance.

Measures to recover Bermuda’s economy must follow a job-centric approach and be backed with stronger employment policies. All stimulus packages and debt relief measures must be directly linked to employment and income protection as both are critical to making recovery effective and sustainable.

BPSU - Intl Workers Day Bermda April 30 2020 (2)

The important role of the Unions

Bermuda’s trade unions – singularly and collectively under the under the umbrella of the Bermuda Trade Union Congress [BTUC] – have a vital role to play in this crisis through the protection of workers interests and ensuring that workers are represented at the table.

International Workers’ Day was born out of workers’ struggle for decent work. In the first half of the 20th century, Unions won significant concessions including the 8-hour workday, improved working conditions, social protection, sick leave, maternity and paternity leave, health and safety in the workplace, the right to organise and collective bargaining. A significant number of these victories can be rolled back, watered down or lost with disastrous consequences if we fail to remain strong, progressive and proactive.

Giving thanks

Workers keep the vital fabric of society running.

Workers – many of whom are BPSU members – are on the frontline working to provide critical healthcare and other essential services in order to keep our Island running. Others are continuing to fulfill their work obligations by working from home while at the same time effectively managing their homelife responsibilities.

We celebrate your resourcefulness, strength and resilience; we thank you for commitment to getting the job done.

The Way Forward

With solidarity, we shall overcome the impact of the pandemic.

It will, however, take all of us.

Bermuda will need the combine efforts of workers, Government, businesses and the third sector to evolve from the pandemic; together we have an opportunity to build a more equitable society and resilient local economy.

The BPSU is committed to doing its part and look forward with collaborating with its members and Bermuda’s key stakeholders to move “Onward & Upward Together”.

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Comments (1)

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  1. Joe Jordan says:

    Interesting article, whilst I find much of Bermuda Union‘s a dated concept, Mr Thomas is a good steward.

    Where I find this lacking though is you want unemployment insurance, you want secured livelihoods, but who is going to pay for this?

    Ultimately you are asking a penniless Government to fill an impossible bill, unless of course you are prepared to address the elephant in the room; the bloated civil service.

    Are you willing to address that?

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