Justice high on Burt’s to-do list – not revenge
Labour Day message
“On Labour Day we remember and recognise workers who struggled to ensure decent and fair working conditions for us all.
“We must never forget that the advances in this country and around the world have been hard-won by union members who have given tirelessly and made many personal sacrifices to ensure protection for their fellow workers.
“The labour movement highlights the strength, resilience, and determination of our people.
“Throughout history, equality, economic parity, improved benefits and better working conditions were not guaranteed.
“Today, the benefits enjoyed by all working men and women came from a history of struggle, but that struggle has built the foundation for a better Bermuda.
“While we recognise that there must be fair wage policies and better benefits for workers, our people must also be empowered so that they are in a better position to help and do for themselves.
“The legislation cannot be expected to change the attitudes of many within the private sector, and to ensure that every worker has fair and equal opportunities will require us as a community to come together and provide these opportunities for ourselves.
“There is still much work to be done and we must press forward in unity.
“Our ability to look out for one another is important to shaping a better future, and our ability to stand together in the face of adversity will enable us to create a sustainable working environment for Bermudians, now and in the future.
“As leaders, we recognise each of us must ensure that our progress continues.
“We have a responsibility to bring about necessary change and set the standard for a fair and just workplace.
“By working together, we can address stagnant wages, unemployment, and unfair business practices.
“Labour Day reminds us of how far we have come, and how far we still must go to ensure the dignity of our people is upheld.
“I salute the working people who drive our economy forward and the union members who have bestowed benefits upon us through the labour movement.
“Our government was delivered a mandate largely due to the support of members of the labour community and we are committed to delivering on our promises to make Bermuda work for Bermudians.
David Burt pledged last night to examine the “historical injustices of stolen lands” and to get to the bottom of what happened during the airport protest on December 2 last year.
Delivering his first major speech as Premier at the Bermuda Industrial Union’s 36th Labour Day Banquet, Mr Burt also vowed to implement a living wage and emphasised the importance of solidarity to “harness the forces of economic empowerment”.
Mr Burt, who was the keynote speaker at the event at the Fairmont Southampton, said: “With our election victory, we have won the tools to make change, and that is the power to change laws and to control the public purse. But that alone will not make the change to ensure that children and grandchildren of today’s workers will become the producers tomorrow.
“The labour movement and the [Progressive] Labour Party have a chance to write a new script for Bermuda. We can show this country that the lesson of solidarity is unity — unity of vision and unity of purpose.
“Now that the people have chosen to put their trust and belief in us, that our collective leadership can work together, we have to demonstrate to them what solidarity can achieve.”
Mr Burt also emphasised that the new government’s objective is “not a revenge mission”.
But he added: “Justice must still be done. So we must examine the historical injustices of stolen lands to ensure that some families finally get their justice.
“And we must ensure that we get to the bottom of the horrors of December 2, 2016, where workers and seniors were viciously assaulted, and find out what happened — and the truth because our people deserve no less.
“Our fellow Bermudians are trusting us. They are trusting that the solidarity that produced marches and demonstration, that demanded respect and change, will produce a Bermuda that works for all of us. The haves will continue to keep theirs, but the have-nots will be helped by this government to earn theirs, too.
He added: “This government is firmly committed to demolishing the elements in Bermuda that have maintained the ‘two Bermudas’. We will weed out the bias and the racism that have held this country in its grip for too long, that has cut off potential, that has ruined access to opportunities by providing a less than high-quality education, unfulfilling jobs and little ability to earn enough to own a piece of the rock.”
Mr Burt reiterated that the PLP government would improve the education system, provide better training and invest in lifelong learning for all Bermudians, and provide more access to capital to boost entrepreneurs.
He reiterated the importance of supporting young entrepreneurs and those businesses “that reflect our values”.
He said: “As a community of workers, we will not accomplish our dream of economic empowerment until we understand that through solidarity we must empower each other by using our collective efforts and begin to harness the forces of co-operative economics.
“Fighting among each other will not get us what we need to do and that is the fact that in this country the workers and we must implement a living wage.
“We must reduce the cost of living in this country and we must ensure that all people — no matter the colour of their skin, their gender or their physical abilities — will get the same wage for the same work. We must ensure that employers give the same benefits to all their staff.”
Mr Burt also spoke about the events that led up to the landslide election victory on July 18, including the protest surrounding Pathways to Status, the former government’s position on furlough days, the sacking of unionised employees from the Hamilton Princess Hotel & Beach Club and subsequent dismissal of Bermuda Chamber of Commerce executive director Joanne MacPhee after she shouted at passing protesters to get back to work.
He also paid tribute to the leaders of the People’s Campaign — BIU president Chris Furbert, Bermuda Public Services Union president Senator Jason Hayward and the Reverend Nicholas Tweed — “who came when our hour came”.
Mr Burt added: “The effectiveness of marching is really about the effectiveness of solidarity. If you are connected with the workers, the builders of the economy and of the country, then chances are you can resolve issues by talking, negotiating and emphasising, and marching is not necessary.
“During the campaign, it was clear that the PLP thought Bermudians should be working before or even alongside non-Bermudians. The other guys [One Bermuda Alliance] thought non-Bermudians were the only priority. So when I say labour won, it’s no small thing.”
Mr Burt added: “Up until July 18, your thoughts about Bermudians in the workplace, the feelings you had when you saw injustice, the values that your parents had instilled in you well before July 18, you were the revolutionary, the rebel, the troublemaker, who just wouldn’t shut up and do their job and they were the Establishment. Those days are over.
“Being Bermudian and working in Bermuda, and using all your potential and being properly rewarded for it, is not revolutionary. That is the way it should be, so welcome to the new Establishment.”
He concluded: “Let tonight be the beginning of the rebirth of labour in Bermuda.
“The union is active, the Government is labour, our mandate is strong and we can be the best labour movement that the world has seen. We will do it together in solidarity. United we stand, divided we fall.”
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