Workers hold the keys to a better Bermuda, the Acting Premier said yesterday.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch said that the labour movement in 2018 and beyond was “the most critical partner in the progressive we all want to see”.
Colonel Burch, the Minister of Public Works, was speaking at the annual Labour Day rally held outside the Bermuda Industrial Union Headquarters on Hamilton’s Union Street.
He told the crowds that as minister he was proud to work alongside men and women of the island’s trade unions.
Colonel Burch said: “Their union membership makes them better workers, it makes us better managers, and in the end, helps us to provide the services to Bermuda that many often take for granted.”
He told observers that the Government was a labour government.
Colonel Burch added: “Everything we do is with the core ideals of the labour movement in mind. After all, it is who we are, it is what we are.”
He said that Government efforts for the people would be doubled when Parliament resumed this autumn.
Colonel Burch added: “We are done diagnosing the problems, it is time for solving those problems.”
He said the focus would be on “deliberately and aggressively” bringing down the cost of living, and that the implementation of a living wage was important.
Colonel Burch added: “It is unthinkable in this day and age for an adult with all the responsibilities demanded of our people to earn a wage that can never allow them to take care of their primary needs. This will end.”
The theme of this year’s event was “Progress Towards a Fairer Bermuda”.
Jason Hayward, president of the Bermuda Trade Union Congress and head of the Bermuda Public Services Union, said that the BTUC had called for a living wage last year.
Mr Hayward added: “Four hundred years ago people were working for free in Bermuda as slaves.
“Four hundred years later, some of the descendants of those slaves are now making $6 an hour.
“The wages in this country are unacceptable with the high cost of living.”
He said that the costs of food, healthcare and housing in Bermuda were too high.
Mr Hayward added the Government should develop a national innovation and technology plan “to provide our citizens with skills for the new world of work”.
Chris Furbert, president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, said it was time for change.
Mr Furbert added: “Bermudians have seen their income seriously eroded over the past several decades.”
He said that the message delivered by David Burt, the Premier, at the BIU banquet held on Friday night was “very encouraging for those who are struggling”.
Mr Furbert added: “It’s not just blacks that are struggling. Let’s just be clear.
“There are a lot of whites and others who are making the wages that blacks are making.”
He said that he was pleased to hear Mr Burt mention the need to examine the cost of healthcare, electricity, and financial services in his speech. Mr Furbert added that it was “certainly time” for race-based income inequality to be addressed.
Colonel Burch said that the living wage was only “one piece of the puzzle”. He explained: “You cannot improve people’s lives if all you do is give them the short-term means to exist in an unjust system. Historic systems of inequality must be broken and injustice replaced with justice and equity.”
Colonel Burch said that “strongholds of economic injustice” — including healthcare, energy, mortgages and taxes — were “set to change”, adding: “If all we do is give people more money to pay to you know who, then shame on us.”