FRIDAY, JUNE 22: Big business has to pull its weight to help Bermuda recover from the recession, says junior Finance Minister David Burt.
Senator Burt said Government is playing its part to keep Bermudians in jobs – but that even profitable businesses on the island were outsourcing jobs that could be filled by local people.
He added: “Outsourcing means that people are losing jobs and that’s sad. It’s tough, it’s a challenge, but sadly that’s what the capitalist model leads to, the eternal focus on profits.
“We have a very high cost of living – during a boom people make money, during a recession people try not to lose money so they do not go out of business.
“The Government has a part to play — and the private sector has a part to play. The private sector needs to believe in Bermuda and Bermudians.
“That’s the way we’ll continue to make progress in this very tough time in our history.”
Sen. Burt added: “It’s a big disappointment that local companies outsource jobs held by Bermudians for no other reason than to improve their bottom line and improve returns for their shareholders.
“These job losses have nothing to do with immigration policy.”
He said: “The best way for the private sector to help to do that is to invest in Bermuda, in education and training and believe in Bermudians so we as a country can turn this around together.
Two of the business cited by Sen Burt were telecoms firm CellOne and insurance company BF&M.
And he also spoke about grocery stores: “Retail food prices also continue to be high – retail payroll tax concessions applied to supermarkets as well, but we don’t see that reflected in prices.
“One has to ask whether the people involved are actually pocketing the difference.”
“…We don’t get to see the figures for private companies like supermarkets but one must ask if during this time private industry is doing all it can to help the country during this tough time.
“…Government is also helping by increasing pensions for seniors and with things like Future Care to provide an alternative to private insurers.
“We have given relief to people and businesses in these tough times and that’s the only way the country is going to progress.
“Do businesses not feel as though they have any responsibility to Bermuda? That only ends up damaging Bermuda.
“It may help CellOne’s bottom line and return more money to its shareholders, but in the end, Bermuda and Bermudian employees lose.
“The local economy, in order for it to work, has to have people going out and spending. When local companies outsource Bermudian jobs, that’s fewer people working and fewer people going out and spending.”
But BF&M CEO John Wight said the decision to hire around 25 information systems specialists overseas was taken in 2005 — while Bermuda was still enjoying a boom and local talent was in short supply.
He added the team in Halifax, Canada, included a senior Bermudian, who had volunteered to move to Canada.
And he said there were 140 employees on the island — with around 130 of them being Bermudian.
Mr Wight added: “We are very much pro-Bermudians and that statistic shows how supportive we are of Bermudians in the local market.”
Mr Wight explained: “Rather than bringing in expats, it was more efficient to go to the source of the skills we needed and we determined Halifax was a prime spot to hire well-qualified employees.
“We didn’t displace anyone in Bermuda.”
Mr Wight ruled out a change of policy and local recruitment to take account of the downturn on the island.
He said: “Because of the state of the economy, we haven’t had to hire anybody new for the last couple of years. People in Halifax are now up to speed on the business — it wouldn’t be efficient to displace these people and hire new ones who would take a couple of years to get up to speed.”
No one from CellOne was available for comment.