Labor Day belongs to the hard-working men and women of Bermuda. They have worked hard and continue to work hard to build a better life for themselves and their families. On this day, they deserve to relax and to enjoy some hard-earned rest and relaxation.
Over the years Bermuda’s successive Governments, Unions and businesses collaborated and agreed to work together to ensure that our people receive an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. The work over that period helped Bermuda to build a respectful working and middle class. I’m talking about the work that got us a 40-hour work week and weekends, paid leave, pensions, health insurance, Social Insurance and HIP.
If you want to know who helped to lay these cornerstones of our success, we must thank governments, businesses, and our unions, like the Bermuda Union of Teachers, the Bermuda Industrial Union, Bermuda Public Service Union, and others.
Collectively, we must acknowledge that a solid foundation was built by these organizations. We must also acknowledge and salute the hard work, and sacrifice that each of these organizations demonstrated to look out for one another, by giving everyone a chance to share in Bermuda’s economic development.
As President Barack Obama once said, “We’ve come through a difficult decade, and are currently going through some challenging times, in which we have seen our values challenge for short term gains. We’ve gone through a decade where wealth was valued over work, and greed was valued over responsibility. And the decks were too often stacked against ordinary folks in favor of the special interests. And everywhere I went while I was running for this office, I met folks who felt their economic security slipping away, men and women who were fighting harder and harder just to stay afloat. And that was even before the economic crisis hit, and that just made things even harder.” End quote.
With the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic, like the rest of the world, Bermuda is facing some tough times, especially for our working class. Things are even tougher for Bermudians who are looking for work, and a lot of them have been looking for a long time. The truth is, there’s a lot more work to do to recover fully from this recession and Covid environment.
Yes, times are tough, but we’ve been through tough times before. As a country, we know that by marching together, walking together, and working together, we can rebuild together. We won’t quit. We don’t give up our dreams and settle for less. We are a resilient people. We roll up our sleeves, and we remember a fundamental truth of Bermuda’s history: We are stronger when we work together and fire on all pistons.
We should not be satisfied just to get back to where we were before the Covid 19 recession; we’ve got to fully restore the working- and middle-class people of Bermuda.
If we are going to work hard to provide a better life for our children and our children’s children, we must ensure that they the best education possible. We must continue to support and keep teachers on the job. We must continue to assess and reform our public schools, so student performance and output is improved.
Every family in Bermuda should have access to affordable healthcare. People shouldn’t be discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition and our young adults without insurance should be able to stay on their parents’ healthcare plans.
The bottom line is simple. Putting money back into the pockets of Bermuda’s families is the only way to build economic security for individuals and for the country. Raising the demand for goods in our community is key as it translates into hiring, which means that our economy will grow.
So, the way to put Bermuda back to work is for our government, our union partners, and our business partners to work together to resolve our current challenges. They must work together with a sense of urgency, given the hardship that many people are facing. They must start the process NOW, so that Bermuda and her people can have the best economic and social outcomes.
On this Labour Day, to honour the hard-working men and women of this country, the recent games of political brinkmanship must come to an immediate end. The time for action is now, that means:
• No more manufactured crises;
• No more political disfunction;
• The people who were sent to Parliament, to represent our workers, should not worry about their own jobs;
• Now is the time to put Bermuda back to work.
I will close with this quote:
“I believe in the dignity of labour, whether with head or hand;
that the world owes no man a living,
but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living.”