Brother Jason is a candidate for the by-election to elect a new 2nd Vice-President of the Bermuda Public Services Union, to be held this coming Thursday, March 18th at BPSU HQ. These are his answers to some questions I put to him last week, with the hope of helping BPSU members to be more informed about their candidates and to raise awareness about the cause of labour in Bermuda today.
What is your current occupation and what led you into that direction?
I am currently a middle manager in the Economics and National Accounts Statistics Division of the Bermuda Government Department of Statistics. I started in the Department of Statistics as a temporary survey clerk in 2003. I enjoyed both the work and the people and decided to make statistics my career. Three promotions and seven years later I now assist in managing the Departments Economics and National Accounts work program.
When did you join the BPSU?
I joined the Bermuda Public Services Union when I commenced employment with the Bermuda Government in 2003.
What positions, if any, have you held in the BPSU?
I am an Advanced Shop Steward of the Bermuda Public Services Union (BPSU) and I serve as the Chairman of the BPSU’s Future Leaders Committee. I am also a member of the BPSU’s Government negotiating team. Additionally, I am the BPSU’s representative on the Joint Labor Day Organization Committee which is responsible for organizing the Labor Day march and entertainment after. In July 2009, I was elected Secretary of the Caribbean Public Service Association ‘Young Workers’ Secretariat.
Why do you want to run for the position of 2nd Vice-President?
I am running for 2nd Vice-President because I have a deep passion for trade unionism and I feel that I have the ability to do more within the organization. I intend to bring new ideas and a renewal of energy to the union. I also realize that for any organization to survive, young members who possess leadership qualities must step up and assume these responsibilities. I have a great empathy for the members of the BPSU and I am committed to do all that I can to represent and defend whatever is in their best interest.
What do you think about the current status of organised labour in Bermuda?
I feel that organized labour in Bermuda is relatively static. I feel that the two largest Unions, the BIU and the BPSU, need to show greater solidarity on issues that affect the workers of Bermuda. While organised labour has progressed leaps and bounds since its inception, I feel it is time for the movement to now turn the corner and become more influential on decisions that affect workers of Bermuda, as it is their social responsibility.
What do you think can be done to increase union membership and the active participation of members in their unions?
Increasing union membership is a problem that unions face globally. I truly believe that (1) individuals need to be educated on the principles of trade unionism and the benefits that they provide; and (2) the unions must become more vocal and more visible, transforming themselves into organizations that people want to join and are excited to contribute to.
What do you see as the chief challenges for organised labour in general, and the BPSU in particular, in the next decade?
The greatest challenge for organized labour, and the BPSU in particular in the next decade is fighting and combating the capitalist mentality of organizations. When companies attached a cost to workers and the workers move from being assets of a company to liabilities it is hard to convince an organization of the importance of keeping those workers employed. Organisations who view their workforce in terms of dollars and cents will use a variety of methods to reduce their human liabilities such as outsourcing and restructuring, just to name a few.
How good is the communication and collaboration between the BPSU and the other Bermuda unions, and how could these be improved? And with international unions, particularly in the Caribbean?
I already stated that I believe greater solidarity is needed between the BIU and BPSU, however the BPSU is part of the Trade Union Congress which is our national center and is comprised of most trade unions within Bermuda. In terms of international unions and those particularly in the Caribbean I feel that the communication is excellent. The BPSU are affiliates of the Public Services International, Union Network International and the Caribbean Public Services Association. I am actually the Secretary of the Caribbean Public Services Association’s ‘Young Workers’ Secretariat which means I am responsible for facilitating communication throughout all the affiliate public services youth wing within the Caribbean. In my capacity as secretary I also produce a quarterly newsletter that I disseminate throughout the Caribbean.
What do you think about moving from a 37.5 hour week to a 35 hour week?
Most civil servants already work 35 hour weeks so I have no issue with moving from a 37.5 hour week to a 35 hour week. I think that many have issues with the unknowns. These include questions on whether workers will be required to work less hours for the same pay and what effects will the change have on departments that already heavily require overtime. I think whatever decision is made should be in the best interest of all stakeholders.
What do you think about the 2010 Budget as regards the impact it will have on Bermudian workers in general and BPSU members in particular? I’m thinking here of the changes to the payroll tax and pension funds, but feel free to add other thoughts.
While the budget was more conservative than I thought it would be, I was always of the understanding that taxes would increase. I don’t get caught up too much on which taxes increased because whether direct or indirect the citizens of the land end up paying anyway. While payroll tax is a direct tax on the workers I think that a one percent increase in payroll tax was moderate to employees. If it takes the Government to increase payroll tax by two percent to keep BPSU members employed I could live with that.
Do you think we should move Labour Day from September to May 1st, and what do you think can be done to improve turnout?
I actually sit on the Joint Labour Day Organization Committee, responsible for the Labour Day march and related activities. While we understand that May was the intended date to celebrate Labour Day, September was the date that the workers received. To me, both dates now have a historical significance within Bermuda. The recognition of labour is more significant than the dates to me.
What can the BPSU and organised labour in general do to help with social problems such as gang violence, drug abuse or education issues?
Without deeply elaborating I think that the BPSU and organized labour should support preventive measures that address gang violence, rehabilitation combat drug abuse and collaboration from all stakeholders deal with education issuses.