Bermuda’s civil service is not “overstocked”, as has routinely been emphasised by the Opposition One Bermuda Alliance (OBA), rather the opposite is so, according to Nadine Henry, third vice president of the Bermuda Public Services Union (BPSU).
Ms Henry, speaking in Union Square as a presenter at during this Monday’s union organised Labour Day event Ms Henry saluted the Island’s government workers, while noting how many routinely went above and beyond their job requirements in order to ensure the effective running of Government, particularly during the recent times of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Many workers stayed on the front lines, often at risk to their own health, to ensure that Bermuda effectively managed the far-reaching impacts,” said Ms Henry to the few hundred gathered supporters and onlookers. “Many workers took on additional roles and responsibilities.
“There’s no way anybody could believe the public service is overstocked, we are actually understaffed, and to this day, many workers extend themselves without additional pay because we love our country.”
Prison Officers Association (POA) president Timothy Seon likewise highlighted his comrades as going above and beyond under trying _ even dangerous _ conditions at Westgate Correctional Facility, which has made news for its purported crumbling infrastructure and sub-par security measures and equipment, while officers are yet expected to effectively and safely manage a rising amount of hardcore criminals.
Said Mr Seon: “Prison officers are working in units without proper ventilation. If it’s 87 or 90 degrees outside, add another ten to 15 degrees inside the jail. I recall people being locked up for treating their animals like that.
“When the Government asked us to roll up our sleeves and put our hands in the soil we were all for it. But when it comes to a point where our safety is disregarded, it has to be addressed.
“Officers are on the front line. We need to be properly financed. We need the proper tools and equipment so that we can carry out our duties in a safe environment.”
The president characterised the Dockyard facility as having become a dumping ground for persons with mental health challenges, that they are ill-equipped to deal with, adding that rehabilitation programmes were not being consistently made available to inmates, precipitating high levels of recidivism.
“Court-ordered programmes are not being made available for inmates at their parole hearing,” said Mr Seon. “If an inmate does not do what’s necessary in order to be considered for parole, that’s on the inmate, but at no time whatsoever should inmates be turned away because of the inconsistency of court-ordered programmes.”
Bermuda Industrial Union (BIU) president, Chris Furbert, belabouring the lack of young people in attendance at the rally, especially considering how he said the unions had worked diligently in the trenches to establish a fairer playing field for workers, particularly the disenfranchised Blacks within the labour sector.
Furbert again raised the issue of the need to adequately address the rising cost of living in Bermuda, noting how Bermuda was listed as having the world’s highest cost of living and adding how a committee formed more than 50 years ago submitted a report containing the very same items of concern faced today, namely high food costs and exorbitant rents being charged.
“This report was given in 1971,” said Mr Furbert. “For 27 years after the report, the United Bermuda Party Government did absolutely nothing to help the people of this country as far as the cost of living goes.
“November 1998, the Progressive Labour Party gets elected and they are the government for 14 years. The cost of living? Still extremely high.
“The One Bermuda Alliance wins the Government, and still nothing. The PLP was re-elected in 2017 and since then we have had conversations about food costs, maybe about healthcare costs.
“The overall expenditure is too high, and until we can all agree on that, you can put a band aid here and there, but the whole expenditure needs to come down.”
Meanwhile, Bermuda Union of Teachers (BUT) preside Nishanthi Bailey spoke of her experience in being Unlawfully” cast out of the public teaching profession by the Ministry of Education and having to fight ‘tooth and nail’ to regain her footing within the department and the classroom.
She told how she had had to go so far as to engage as tribunal for adjudication, from which she came out victorious.
“I appealed my termination, and the tribunal that was selected to make a determination, they ruled that I should be reinstated effective immediately,” explained Ms Bailey, who emphasised the importance of collective cooperation and collaboration within labour. “Although I am one person, that solidarity felt by those of us who believe in fighting for upholding justice is important,” she said.
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