Video: 1981 General Strike Ceremony

May 5, 2021

[Updated] In observance of the 40th anniversary of the General Strike of 1981, a ceremony is being held this afternoon [May 5], and you can tune in and watch live below.

Glenn Fubler previously said, “Bermuda experienced significant change over the last half of the 20th century. This transformation propelled by a long-held desire for progress. While each milestone of this journey has been meaningful, on this May 5th we will symbolically celebrate the largest peaceful protest in our history.”

Update: The live broadcast has concluded and the 25-minute replay is below

Update 7.19pm: Glenn Fubler said, “Program for May 5th Ceremony

  • Opening with 40 Seconds Silence Reflecting on Current Pandemic
  • Opening Prayer – Bishop Nicholas Dill
  • 40 sec. Applause for those ‘Veterans of the Peace’
  • Reading of the May 5th Declaration – Presidents: Chris Furbert & Nishanthi Bailey
  • 40 seconds of Silence – Looking Back – Looking Forward
  • Song by Indigo – BHS Student
  • Closing Prayer by Rev Nicholas Tweed

A spokesperson said, “We, the undersigned- join in highlighting those ‘outside the box’ aspects of the General Strike of 1981 – on this 40th Anniversary of that milestone.

“A Global Consensus, developed over the 20th Century, saw the establishment of a system of Labour Relations, seeking to balance the competing interests of Governments, Employees and Employers. This mandate was embodied in the International Labour Organization [ILO], a UN Agency that promotes the global right for employees to benefit from trade unionism.

“The ILO also advances on-going dialogue involving Government, Employee and Employer representatives in fostering collaboration amongst stakeholders. A goal of dialogue is to seek ‘outside the box’ options, in mitigation of the implicit competitive ethos of ‘free enterprise’, which tends towards conflict.

“Through visionaries such as Dr Gordon during the ‘40’s, a union movement in Bermuda established a sound foundation, for both economic and social justice. The momentum of that legacy was carried forward by many; notably Ottiwell Simmons, who accepted leadership responsibilities in the Bermuda Industrial Union during the early ‘60’s.

“Following the ‘set-back’ during the tragic 1965 BELCO conflict; there was reasonable progress made for the following 15 years, from an employee perspective. However, a global bout of hyper-inflation in the late ‘70’s, proved to be a reversal.

“It was in that context that the BIU leadership sought a strategy to address family budget deficits in terms of a living wage, during the 1980 Government Negotiations. This proved to be at odds with the then- Government policy; leading to a strike of 1,100 Hospital and Government BIU members, during the Spring of ’81, which mushroomed.

“By the second week of that strike, others from the rest of the BIU’s 6,000 -membership, began to join in support of their fellow members- something not unexpected in the circumstances. However, as time passed, persons from the wider community – outside of the BIU -took unprecedented steps of solidarity. We’ll highlight five persons who provided ‘outside the box’ examples.

  • “Canon Thomas Nisbett and the late-Rev Larry Lowe served as Co-Chairs of the Strikers Family Support Committee; encouraging the community to donate groceries and funds to Families involved. These clerics subsequently hosted lunch-time prayerful reflections, at St Paul, easing attendant divisiveness.
  • “Police Sergeant Campbell Simons opted for an ‘outside the box’ approach, when he serendipitously engaged the spontaneous – illegal – Peaceful March, through Hamilton on May 1st – International Workers’ Day; facilitating the incident-free conclusion to that ‘watershed’ procession through the capital.
  • “Betty Kawaley: The former President of the BUT, at the time, on the verge of retirement, is the only-surviving member [in her 100th year] of a group of elders who inspired younger educators joining that glorious march into Union Square on May 5th. The French Teacher, who has a history championing social justice, helped spark the spirit of Liberte on that momentous day.
  • “The late -‘Chuck’ Renaud was the President of BELCO’s ESTU, had been directly involved in the tragic conflict of 1965 which saw a violent conclusion. The surprise appearance of this group in Union Square on May 5th, led by their white leader, elicited both cheers and tears; a circle had been closed by out of the box leadership, facilitating healing for the wider community.

“These type of ‘out of the box’ approaches, minimized divisiveness, accessed non-confrontational options and fostered a peaceful conclusion to a crisis that had ‘teetered on the edge’. It spoke to the personal mantra of the then-President of the Hospital BIU Membership – Gladwin Simmons: “ Building with peace, not just for peace”.

“The undersigned agree that:

“Notwithstanding the victory for ‘peace’, there were unintended consequences especially adversely impacting the Hospitality Sector. As we look back, with the goal of drawing lessons, as current generations address new challenges such as Covid and its implications for our economy. In that regard, we take this opportunity to encourage our entire society to re-commit to the type of cross-community Dialogue, fostering collaboration, in the spirit of the ILO.

“The May 5th Declaration has the support of more than two dozen residents, representing – in some cases – their organizations and in other cases; their personal position. The include the Island’s Union Leaders; the President of the Bermuda Employers’ Council; the Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission; two former Premiers; the current President of the Senate and the Mayor of Hamilton; three of the Island’s Bishops – [all the last 7 and the following on a personal basis ]and numerous other persons of good will.

“Full List: Alphabetical Order [*] denotes representing organization noted. All other reference to organizations in the list, is simply to clarify and identify the personality.

  • Nishanthi Bailey – * President of the B.U.T.
  • John Barritt – Former Member of Parliament & News Journalist in 1981
  • Ed Ball – Former General Secretary of the BPSU
  • Sis. Helena ‘Molly’ Burgess – * General Secretary of the BIU
  • Ronaldine ‘Ronnie’ Burgess – *Recording Secretary & Organizer of the BIU
  • Dale Butler – President of the BUT in 1981; Former Minister of the Cabinet
  • Betty Anne Caesar – * President of the Electrical Supply Union [ESTU] & President of the Bermuda Trade Unions Congress [BTUC]
  • Michael Charles – * Current General Secretary & Former President of the BUT
  • Joan Dillas-Wright – President of the Senate
  • Bishop Nicholas Dill – Anglican Bishop of Bermuda
  • Thaao Dill – Bermuda College Recruitment Officer
  • Bishop Lloyd Duncan – New Testament Church of God
  • Selena Fields – *President Bermuda Entertainers Union
  • Victor Fishenden – Former President of the BTC Membership of the BIU – 1981
  • Jennie Foster-Skelton – Music Director at the Cathedral; Actress
  • Glenn Fubler – Former President & Gen Sec of BUT; *Imagine Bermuda
  • Chris Furbert – *President of the BIU
  • Robert ‘Robbie’ Godfrey – Actor
  • Charles Gosling – Mayor of Hamilton
  • Kevin Grant – * General Secretary of the BPSU
  • Wendell “Scopsie” Hassell – President of the Construction Workers of the BIU in 1981
  • Ellen Kate Horton – former President & Gen. Sec. of BUT
  • Dwight Jackson – General Secretary of the BTUC
  • Keith Jensen – * President of the Bermuda Employers Council
  • Rotimi Martins – Drama Specialist
  • Dion Ming – Actor
  • Nakia Pearson – *President of the Fire Services Union
  • Lisa Reed – * Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission of Bermuda
  • Timothy Seon – *President of Corrections Union
  • W. Alex Scott – Former Premier of Bermuda
  • Collin Simmons – *Education Officer BIU
  • Bishop Wes Spiewak – Catholic Bishop of Bermuda
  • Clarence Smith – Former President BIU Marine & Ports Membership – 1981
  • Sir John Swan – Former Premier of Bermuda
  • Imam Saleem Talbot – Islamic Community
  • Armell Thomas – *President Bermuda Public Services Union
  • Kenten Trott – * President of the Bermuda Police Service Assoc.
  • Rev Nicholas Tweede – St Paul AME Church
  • Kristen White – *Coordinator Social Justice Bermuda [SJB]
  • Lynne Winfield – * President of Citizens Uprooting Racism [CURB]

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Comments (18)

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  1. So we are now celebrating what with no doubt lead to the total downfall of Tourism in Bermuda, which has lead to many hotels closing for good and locals losing their employment in that industry permanently?

    If my memory serves me correctly, leading up to that disastrous day, there was approximately 12000 beds for tourist available, today there is about 3000, yeah that really is cause for celebration isn’t it?

    And lets not forget those awful scenes of tourists being made to walk the length Causeway, that was a very nice touch, that I am quite sure not one of those visitors ever forgot!

    • wahoo says:

      Yes I can remember it and like you I would say that there was nothing worth celebrating but it was forty years ago so we can rewrite history now. If you are a politician or union head you gotta keep them angry and it is easy to do.

      • Yep, totally agree, the ignorance there is nothing short of astounding, I am so happy I left, that way I only see the stupidity from afar and only when I want too.

    • Toodle-oo says:

      And you forgot the part about dining room staff at the Sonesta dancing on the tables in the faces of horrified visitors who will never return again. Or the tourists carrying their bags over the Causeway being harassed (threatened actually) by picketers .
      Unlike all of these under 55 yr old dreamers who have had their heads filled with history revisionist trash I was there , first pressed into duty loading baggage in outbound jetliners and then the 3 week embodiment of the Regiment. Being on 24 hour standby and wearing the same uniform for 3 weeks wasn’t fun.
      The late Sr David Gibbons rightfully said at the time that Bermuda could not afford the demands and he was absolutely right. Since then our rate of inflation has continued to spiral out of control.
      And let it be known that at the time I was earning less than what the union members striking were.
      Like wahoo said , history revisionism and nothing worth celebrating at all.

  2. Holy bible batman says:

    Golly is that Genevieve? I thought his work permit got pulled.

    • Sandgrownan says:

      WTF. Why is that rabble rousing pastor allowed to involve himself in politics?

      Oh yeah, I know why…..

    • Tom says:

      I think you will find he was given his status!

  3. Ringmaster says:

    I’d describe it as the battle won by the Unions but they lost the war and Bermuda and Bermudians are still suffering the wounds from that battle today.

  4. Raina says:

    UBP was the downfall for the Tourism industry because they decided to head the country in a different direction which was International Business, and they decided not to continue to work on the Tourism Sector! Bermuda’s main economy was tourism until the 1970’s when International Business took over. A steady stream of offshore companies invested in Bermuda, hiring locals and calling Bermuda home due to its strong regulatory system, proximity to the US and British law.

    So this was all happening way before the 1981 Strike!!!!

    Go research the history!

    Also people in the tourism Industry were getting very low wages and almost working as slaves. People should make a stand for their rights!

    So clearly you people would prefer that some people continue to work as slaves in this country and shame on you!

    • Question says:

      A total rewriting of history. I can remember when there was over-employment. For decades, Bermudians could have two jobs if they wanted. There was absolutely zero unemployment. That all ended in 1998.

    • Truthhertz says:

      What you wrote are verifiable lies. Our tourism sector was booming in the beginning of the ‘80s and people employed in that sector were able to save up to purchase homes etc. the strike was about civil servant pay, not tourism. Ever since 1981 tourism has declined. Guess that’s what happens when you jump up on tables and scream at tourists or force them to walk to the airport with their luggage in the summer heat.

      Nice try at rewriting history tho.

      • sandgrownan says:

        Don’t use facts, it destroys the narrative.

    • Truthhertz says:

      “The undersigned agree that:

      “Notwithstanding the victory for ‘peace’, there were unintended consequences especially adversely impacting the Hospitality Sector.”

      Sounds like the group who signed the declaration yesterday disagree with you based on the above statement.

    • K2 says:

      Wages may not have been fair, let me share as a mid management member of a hotel, bellmen and waiters made higher salaries and shorter hours.

    • saud says:

      “Go research the history!”

      Why? You didn’t bother to. Youi simply made up a bunch of racist garbage.

      Bermuda celebrates the downfall of its economy, begs the UK to allow it to discriminate, and calls the governor a racist.

      The Bermuda you’ve made is pathetic.

  5. Question says:

    One of the most stupid and destructive acts in Bermuda’s history.

    • Answer says:

      Which was all caused by the UBPoba!

      • saud says:

        You spelled PLP wrong. LOL

        Why try to rewrite history when it’s been recorded? It makes you look like a hate filled fool.