The OBA Government continues to violate the Collective Bargaining Agreement and disrespect the Trade Union Officials.
Today, we pause to celebrate labour day and to remember, honour and celebrate the men and women who fought to make Bermuda a more just society for all of us. Many of us today take for granted the benefits that were won as a result of hard work, dedication, sacrifice and yes in some instances, blood sweat and tears of trade unionists in Bermuda.
During the lead-up to the December 2012 General Election, the One Bermuda Alliance campaigned on many promises. The one promise that stands out in the minds of Bermudians, especially those Bermudians who still remain un-employed or under-employed, is the promise of 2000 jobs. May Bermudians took that promise seriously and believed that if they voted for the OBA and they were elected to power, jobs would become available.
Did I, as the Deputy Leader of the PLP and a Member of Parliament, expect the OBA to produce 2000 jobs in the first year? No, I did not.
Did I expect the OBA Government to employ 2000 more people?
No, I did not.
However, I did not expect to see jobs being created for non-Bermudians, as in the case of the Heritage Wharf project, and I did not expect to see job cuts by Government, as in the case of the Bermuda Department of Tourism and more job cuts in the private sector as in the case of Butterfield Bank, in spite of the guarantee given the Bank by the PLP Government to save the bank and Bermudian jobs.
Certainly I did not expect as many migrant workers on the Heritage Wharf project as there was. You will recall that earlier this year the OBA government announced that 75% of the workers on the Heritage Wharf project would be Bermudians and 25% would be work permit holders. In response to questions from the PLP, months later the Government announced that there are 21 work permit holders and 70 Bermudians on the project. I asked the Minister in Parliament what is the total hours worked by Bermudians and non-Bermudians, because with these figures I can determine whether the 75 to 25 percent ratio was in fact the truth. The Minister called the question rubbish.
The OBA Government continues to violate the Collective Bargaining Agreement and disrespect the Trade Union Officials. First there was the issue of the Millenium ferry, a decision was made by the Ministry of Tourism and Transport without following proper protocols with the union as per the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Again, just last week, the same situation occurred with the Department of Tourism without any consultation or discussion with the Bermuda Public Services Union and again with the Bermuda Union of Teachers with regards to shortening the school year.
The Minister of Tourism has stated that there would be no job losses at the Department of Tourism. Yet, the staff members at the Department have been told that if they want to work with the new Tourism Authority, they would have to apply. These same staff members have been told that if they are successful in their applications, there will be a probationary period. This means that the “successful” applicants will no longer be government workers and they will not benefit from GEHI, and the current benefits afforded Government workers as per the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Therefore, as I see it, there are some redundancy issues here. Additionally, the Minister of Tourism has stated that those civil servants in the Department of Tourism who are not hired by the new Tourism Authority can be transferred to other government departments as there are vacancies, yet the SAGE Commission has recommended in its Interim Report that Government should freeze all vacant positions in the Civil Service.
In 1981 all the unions converged on Union Square in solidarity to fight the injustices of the UBP Government. A lot of those same people who participated in the 1981 general strike are now or approaching their 65th birthdays and this government, and the past government, have discriminated against them by dismissing them because they have reached the age of 65. I agree with what Rev. Tweed said night at the BIU’s Banquet, that the present day workers must reach back for the spirit and power of our elders to fight and eradicate any present day injustice.
As a Member of Parliament, and as a trade unionist, I have long advocated for the removal of age discrimination. “In England age discrimination is unlawful. We believe that as long as a worker is capable of being productive in the workplace s/he should continue to be gainfully employed.
I cannot end my address today without referring to the situation at the Ministry of Education, which I can only describe as reprehensible and shameful. Today, we have more people employed within the Ministry of Education, with certified doctorate educational degrees than ever before in our history, yet the Ministry of Education states that none of these people are capable of fulfilling the position of Commissioner of Education. In a press conference approved and written by the OBA Government, the Government insisted no qualified locals had been overlooked, and attributed the uproar over the appointment to a small group of disgruntled applicants twisting the facts to stir the public’s emotion around Bermudianisation. To add insult to injury a spokesperson for the Ministry sought to single out and condemn those Bermudians who dared question the decision. Are we going back to the days when freedom fighters like Rev. Monk, Rev. Tobitt and Rev. Golring were persecuted because they were fearless in their condemnation of a system that was unfair and unjust? Remember the special test that the Bermuda medical board set for Dr. Gordon and former Premier Dr. Brown a test they have never given to anyone else. The test was designed for them to fail in order for them not to have a licence to practice at the islands only hospital. Is history repeating itself?
We in the PLP embrace change, but change must be executed in the right way. One must follow with respect the proper protocols. Obviously some of us have lost our way. Are we still operating in a paternalistic slave society that prohibits solidarity? And discrimination against the fearless. That’s why we need to know our history and every so often we must reread those history books so we don’t forget from whence we came. They must stop profiling our people, particularly those of colour and those of us who joined the PLP as being incompetent, lazy and corrupt.
To whom this may concern, we will not get over this, workers in this country marched for a shorter work week. Workers marched in the streets for overtime pay, workers marched in the streets for paid vacation, maternity leave, workers compensation, public holiday pay, pensions, health insurance and if you try to persecute those that speak out, we will march on you also.
Statement by Shadow Tourism Minister Wayne Furbert on Gaming
"The OBA's indecision and inaction on gaming have raised many questions about their motives and intentions. After months of mixed messages and poor communication to the people, it appears that the OBA has finally reached a decision.
The Bermuda Progressive Labour Party believes that the decision on whether Bermuda will introduce gaming requires education, dialogue and a view towards a plan that benefits all Bermudians and not just a select few. We look forward to the discussion and Bermudians deciding this matter via referendum."
Breaking! OBA Fails to Disclose Interests As Required by the Constitution... At Least One OBA Candidate Is Not Qualified to Run!
The Bermuda Constitution requires that candidates disclose their interests within 7 days after nomination day. The OBA failed to meet this requirement and now at least one of their candidates is ineligible to contest Monday's election!
Progressive Labour Party Chairman, Mr. Anthony Santucci, today challenged the OBA for its lack of commitment to transparency by not publishing a declaration of its candidates’ interests in government contracts as required under the Bermuda Constitution.
“We are gravely concerned that the OBA has not acted as the law requires and published its members' interests in a local newspaper. They have spoken often about transparency and openness yet have failed to show this in a fundamental requirement before the election,” says Mr. Santucci. “More importantly, any candidate who has not declared an interest in any government contract is automatically disqualified as a candidate. Section 30 (6) of the Bermuda Constitution is very clear:
"Subject to such exceptions and limitations as may be prescribed by the Legislature, a person shall not be qualified to be elected as a member of the House of Assembly if he has an interest in any Government contract and has not, within seven days of his nomination as a candidate for election, disclosed the nature of the contract and his interest therein by means of a notice published in the Gazette or in a newspaper published and circulating in Bermuda."
The PLP chairman went on to point out that the PLP ran its ad declaring its members’ interests in a December 5 placement in the Bermuda Sun and has done so in previous elections. In 2007, the UBP declared interests for 16 of their candidates, many of whom are still candidates for the One Bermuda Alliance. The Progressive Labour Party is aware of at least one OBA candidate who, under this term of the Bermuda Constitution, should now be disqualified as a candidate.
Today, The Progressive Labour Party asked why Craig Cannonier and Grant Gibbons are hiding from the people?
Craig Cannonier was offered the chance to appear alongside Premier Paula Cox on Let's Talk last night. He declined. He has repeatedly declined opportunities to appear on The Sherri Simmons show. Dr. Grant Gibbons recently declined an education debate with Dame Jennifer Smith. Ms Nandi Davis has failed to respond to a debate challenge from PLP Constituency#2 candidate Renee Ming. What are they hiding?
When the OBA was asked questions about the secret plan that called for the use of "black surrogates" and called some of us "downscale" and "less educated," Mr. Cannonier stormed out of the room! If he can't answer questions now, how can we expect him to answer the tough questions if he becomes Premier of this country?
Now, the OBA refuses to answer questions about what their Cuts & Pain Commission is really all about. Who will be on it? What will be on the chopping block? In order for them to meet their promise to provide massive new spending and slash the debt, this commission will have to recommend deep and radical cuts that will hurt working and middle class Bermudians.
The Progressive Labour Party has held town halls all over Bermuda during this election campaign. All our candidates have had an opportunity to dialogue with the people of Bermuda. Conversely, the OBA has run a campaign based on scripts and expensive commercials, with no opportunity for exchange. And when the media dared to ask Mr. Cannonier a question that was 'off-script', he stormed off the stage.
What type of government will the OBA be if elected? Will Mr. Cannonier avoid the media at any cost as he has done in this campaign? Will their candidates be barred from participating on different shows?
It's telling that the OBA won't answer your questions. Because, they don't want you to know what they're really all about.
We are not surprised that the OBA is criticizing and opposing an event that attendees viewed as positive and uplifting. The OBA has consistently opposed, criticized and rejected virtually everything positive advocated and achieved by the PLP.
The rally featured PLP candidates talking about how we'll create jobs and opportunities for all Bermudians. It featured speakers talking about building a fairer Bermuda that doesn't work for just the privileged few, but, for all of our people.
We talked about how we stood strong for Bermudians during the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression by helping our seniors get affordable doctor's visits and medication. We talked about how we introduced the EEZ to help our job creating Bermudian small businesses in areas that need it most. We talked about providing DayCare assistance to working families.
We talked about our vision for the future which includes creating job opportunities for Bermudians with the One Stop Career Centre, Job Corps Bermuda and the red carpet for returning graduates. We talked about growing our economy by establishing a bond market and bringing in new types of international business.
That is what the rally was really all about. We encourage the OBA to hold rallies of their own to allow the public to have the opportunity to see and hear what they are really all about."
Minister Roban asks an important question: "While we have been up front and open with Bermudians about our plans, the OBA has announced a troubling Cuts & Pain Commission. What will be on this ‘unelected’ Commission's chopping block? Civil service Jobs? Public education? Benefits for those in need? Assistance to families? FutureCare? DayCare? The OBA hasn't told us."
The Minister focused most of his remarks on the PLP's vision to build a fairer Bermuda that creates jobs and opportunities for all. Minister Roban:
As the global economic crisis raged, the PLP stood strong for Bermudians by training hundreds. We started the DryWall programme, the Waiter/Server programme, the Landscaping programme, the Accounting programme, the CISCO Academy for IT training, the Nail Tech programme and much more.
These programmes have upgraded the skills of hundreds of Bermudians and placed them in jobs.
We have more work to do and we have a vision to create more jobs and opportunities for Bermudians. In the next term, we will start Job Corps Bermuda which will be targeted at Bermudians aged 18-24. It will provide training, job placement, career counseling and mentoring to our young people. We will open the One Stop Career Centre - a place where Bermudians can go to access resources and get placed in a job. We will roll out the red carpet for our college graduates and provide returning graduates with mentorships and internships. Broadening the internship opportunities government is already providing from within.
We will start the New Business Initiative to connect young entrepreneurs with business financing and advice. And, we will expand the EEZ, its grants for small businesses and tax concessions to more areas that need the investment the most.
On the international business side, we have outlined a number of ideas to create more economic opportunity and bring jobs to Bermuda. We will expand the innovative Incentives for Job Makers Act that attaches immigration benefits to creating jobs for Bermudians.
We will introduce a new bond market to Bermuda to bring more opportunities in our international business sector. And, we will further establish regulations for Islamic Finance to bring new investors to the island.
While we have ideas, the OBA offers little more than an unelected Cuts & Pain Commission. Minister Roban:
These are just a few of our ideas to create jobs and opportunities for Bermudians. While we have been up front and open with Bermudians about our plans, the OBA has announced a troubling Cuts & Pain Commission. What will be on this ‘unelected’ Commission's chopping block? Civil service Jobs? Public education? Benefits for those in need? Assistance to families? FutureCare? DayCare? The OBA hasn't told us.
The OBA continues to try to sell us a fairy tale. They say that they can dramatically increase spending and cut taxes while simultaneously reducing the debt, but how!?!?!. They can't introduce all that new spending, 500 million and counting and reduce the debt without engaging in rapid and radical cuts to programmes that matter to you. We will ask for the benefit of our people our democracy. It's time for the OBA to come clean. What will their Cuts & Pain commission cut? Bermudians deserve to know.
The choice is clear. It's between rapid and radical cuts from the OBA's unelected Cuts & Pain Commission and a PLP that has a vision to build a fairer society that creates jobs and opportunities for all of our people.
The PLP has invested in our people with FutureCare, DayCare, the EEZ and much more. We can't afford an OBA that rolls back and cuts these essential initiatives.
Watch our new ad:
Today, Minister Walter Roban asked the OBA to come clean and be honest with Bermudians about the deep and radical cuts they must have planned to fulfill their promises.
In a release last night, the OBA's Bob Richards noted that their Cuts & Pain Commission was nothing more than an efficiency group that the PLP has already implemented. If there is really no difference, why is Mr. Richards copying our idea and why isn't he praising us for implementing what he recommends?
The fact of the matter is that in order for the OBA to fulfil their promises to the Bermudian people, they are going to have to engage in deep and radical cuts. You can't increase spending and cut taxes to the tune of $500 million and also expect to reduce the debt without engaging in deep and radical cuts. So, in light of these facts, the question is, what will the OBA's Cuts & Pain Commission have on its chopping block? Will they cut salaries? Will they cut benefits? Will they cut public education? DayCare? FutureCare? The EEZ? It's time for Bob Richards and the OBA to tell us their secret spending cut plans.
He then asked how the Cuts & Pain Commission will address the transportation budget. Minister Roban:
Will our buses and ferries be able to be effectively maintained or continue the quality services they give to residents and visitors. Will infrastructure be upgraded with staff be trained under an OBA transport plan? In fact, where is their plan?
It also clear that they have no credible ideas for the future of transport and their proposals would not allow for anything resembling the forward thinking initiatives we have for the airport, ferry service, water front development, technical training , maritime and aviation or entrepreneurship to see the light of day. Bermuda would see no progress in the transport industry under the Opposition’s cuts and austerity which will hamper our development.
The PLP has a clear vision for where we want to take transportation in Bermuda and the platform makes this crystal clear. All of our initiatives prove we are Standing Strong with Bermudians and making sure our investment and work in transport serves to expand opportunity and improve the quality of life for all our residents.
Do you trust the OBA to protect FutureCare? DayCare? The EEZ? Benefits? Jobs? If not, vote for the party that has stood strong for you during the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression - vote PLP.
What will the OBA's Cuts & Pain Commission cut? DayCare? FutureCare? Public education? Public assistance? They won't tell us.
Watch the new ad and share it widely:
In response to the OBA's short economic plans, Premier Paula Cox said, "The OBA's dangerous plans would lock into place two Bermudas - one Bermuda that looks after big business and their friends and another Bermuda for the rest of us.
The Premier continued, "We are most concerned about their alarming plans to overhaul our education system. Their plan pushes our Bermudian public school students into the trades from a very young age. The trades are very noble and we honour our tradesmen and women. However, we find it deeply troubling that the OBA plans to track our public school kids away from their dreams from the tender age of 11 and push them into the trades.
"The OBA specifically notes that they will begin an aggressive technical education programme in middle schools and track it all the way through Bermuda College. This is disturbing. Our public education system is student-focused and designed to allow our students to pursue their dreams - be that in the trades, business, law, medicine or whatever their dreams so desire.
"The OBA's plan would lock into place two Bermudas wherein a permanent class of tradespeople is created while those who can afford to send their children to private school can seize other opportunities.
"It gets worse. Their plans to further lock into place the two Bermudas also includes bringing back the indigent clinic - second class healthcare for our people - and putting into place a "Cuts Commission" and a "Big Business Board" to deal with the Debt. They would cancel the new Albert & Victoria Row buildings and they would fast track work permit approvals to bring even more guest workers to our shores."
“And in the midst of these drastic and damaging steps backward, the OBA is also proposing a “Cuts Commission” – putting at risk the valuable social programs that thousands of Bermudians rely on to get by.
"It's now clear that the OBA is little more than the party of big business and the PLP is the party that stands strong for all Bermudians. The stakes couldn't be higher on December 17th. Vote for your children's future. Vote PLP."