The recent commentary surrounding the proposed development of the Fairmont Southampton property has, unfortunately, failed to fairly consider what this project means to Bermuda’s workers, and our economy as a whole.
To preserve the best interests of Bermuda’s working-class population, it is imperative that institutions like the Bermuda Industrial Union add context that informs the public narrative.
There is a simple truth that resonates within those of us in the trenches fighting for workers’ rights – Bermuda’s economic recovery will be stalled should the naysayers succeed, and the Fairmont Southampton remains closed.
Lest we forget, when the Fairmont Southampton Princess closed its doors in October 2020:
– Over 700 jobs – the vast majority of which were held by Bermudians – were lost.
– Nearly 30% of Bermuda’s hotel bed capacity was lost.
– Nearly 30% of Bermuda’s airlift capacity was lost.
– Bermuda’s economy suffered a loss of approximately $100 million per year.
Even if you did not work for Fairmont Southampton directly, you have undoubtedly been impacted by its closure. The sudden reduction in available hotel beds on-island has resulted in a marked reduction in the direct flights to Bermuda. Anyone who has booked a direct flight to the east coast recently can appreciate how much more difficult and expensive travel has become. Whether you are driving a taxi or working in a local restaurant, you have felt the impact of the reduced number of tourists coming to our shores.
The Bermuda Industrial Union’s stance is simple – The redevelopment of the Fairmont Southampton property is of vital importance to Bermuda’s economic recovery, and we cannot afford to allow the perspective of a privileged few to derail an opportunity of this magnitude.
Additionally, the residential units will, over time, provide sustainable economic benefit to a broad spectrum of trades and services required to maintain the properties. We would be remis if we overlooked the jobs these projects would generate in the fields of maintenance, housekeeping and landscaping etc.
Some people have objected to this project because they do not like how the artistic impressions included in the developers’ SDO submission look. Notwithstanding the fact the developers made it clear in their submission that these do not even remotely resemble what the new development will look like, those who hold this view have expressed no interest or compassion for those whose capacity to provide for their families is put on hold or stalled.
There will be opportunities for the scope and scale of this project to be adjusted through the consultative process, but those desperately waiting for the jobs and opportunities the finished product will provide should not be held back because of naysayers.
There are some who have complained about the impact this project would have on the green space – oblivious of the fact that the new development proposal preserves 62 acres for recreational use and green space. There is, again, insufficient weight to this concern to justify delaying a project that would impact the economic wellbeing of hundreds of Bermudian families.
We should be wary of environmental groups that object to hypothetical problems that the consultative process can resolve. It is our view that Bermudians would be better served if these groups focused on real-world environmental impacts, i.e., the effects of Belco’s operations on the surrounding homeowner’s water quality and potential health effects.
The most bewildering objections to this project have undoubtedly come from representatives of the Opposition Party. It reflects an unprecedented level of oblivious irony for the party responsible for the controversial Morgan’s Point, St. Regis, and Airport projects to speak to the efficacy of the current Government’s approach.
While the Opposition may hope to paint a negative picture of the Government’s actions, their objections are counterproductive. The Opposition would be wise to listen closely to the words of Sir John Swan in his April 19, 2023, opinion piece – “A kneejerk objection to any form of change is not what we need right now. If we choose to stand still, progress will just pass us by and move on to the next destination.”
In closing, the Bermuda Industrial Union, in the interest of the working people of Bermuda, will continue to express in principle support for the development of the Fairmont Southampton property. We encourage our members, and all Bermudians, to engage in the consultative process to ensure their voices are not drowned out by the ill-informed opinions of the projects’ detractors.
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