Sister Jacqueline 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 her 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?
Currently, I am the Senior Technologist for the Department of Anatomic Pathology at K.E.M.H. We basically examine human tissue and cells to determine cancerous conditions, or other pathologies. Medicine has always been my passion.
When did you join the BPSU?
I joined the B.P.S.U. in 1996 when I returned from University and rejoined the K.E.M.H. family.
What positions, if any, have you held in the BPSU?
I currently serve as the Chairperson for Division 5, and am a member of the General Council. I also represent my division for the Joint Consultative Committee (JCC), and am a member of the negotiating team for the Collective Bargaining agreement between the BPSU and the Bermuda Hospitals Board.
Why do you want to run for the position of 2nd Vice-President?
I know I can better serve the needs of our workers holding a seat at the Executive Committee level. I offer approximately ten years of experience as a shop steward, and have earned the necessary negotiating skills and respect of my colleagues to be trusted in this role. The diversity of cases has also assisted in my development, and has prepared me to boldly and confidently represent BPSU workers, and handle their cases in strictest confidence.
What do you think about the current status of organised labour in Bermuda?
We must remember that our Unions are only as strong as the members’ level of commitment. We are the Union! The recent economic challenges highlight the necessity for workers’ voices to be heard, and their rights to be protected. This will require a stronger commitment from our elected union representatives, as well as the members.
What do you think can be done to increase union membership and the active participation of members in their unions?
I believe the shop stewards play an essential role in creating the ‘excitement’ necessary to drive membership and active participation. This can be accomplished with frequent communication of the union’s activities and efforts for all workers, meeting and greeting new workers, and informing members of the accomplishments made on their behalf. Members must also be responsible for their own participation and become cognizant of the union’s effort on their behalf.
What do you see as the chief challenges for organised labour in general, and the BPSU in particular, in the next decade? 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?
The communication between unions could be improved. The need for collaboration on matters which involve all workers represented by the various unions can only lend strength, support and solidarity to our trade union infrastructure. The BPSU does have affiliations with Caribbean unions, and representatives are sent from Bermuda to report on the struggle from our sister unions abroad.
What do you think about moving from a 37.5 hour week to a 35 hour week?
I love a 35 hour work week! As an employee of the Bermuda Hospitals Board this has been the practice for years. This move may have financial or other implications for various sectors, but it may have a positive impact in areas such as family life. A half hour extra spent on the family throughout the week can stabilize our most precious resource…..our children.
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.
Government’s proposals regarding payroll tax and pension funds has caused great concern among BPSU members. In an era of job outsourcing, redundancies and job losses due to restructuring, our workers are struggling to survive. The concern becomes greater when some areas of government have seemingly mismanaged finances, and lack accountability and transparency. It is feared that these increases will only adversely affect those workers in the ‘trenches’.
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 prefer Labour Day in September. To improve turn out, we should start by canvassing our members for suggestions. We should ask them, ‘What would draw you to a Labour Day celebration? What would make you participate in our Labour Day festivities?’
What can the BPSU and organised labour in general do to help with social problems such as gang violence, drug abuse or education issues?
We are well aware that the dismantling of our family life is a causative factor in gang violence and the also affects a child’s ability to learn.
Our unions can assist by collaborating to host ‘town meetings’ for concerned residents. Guest presenters can provide tools to enable all Bermudians to take an active part in the fight against violence.
In addition, our unions may consider partnering with the various organizations which attempt to address these issues. This will only strengthen the overall effort, and hopefully encourage our youth to make better choices.