WEDNESDAY, FEB. 29: Trades unions today fired another broadside across the bows of pro-privatisation of public sector services.
Kevin Grant, chairman of the BPSU, also launched a spirited defence of public sector workers – and said they should not have to carry the can for the economic downturn.
Mr Grant – who told the Bermuda Sun on Tuesday the union was against privatization on the grounds it could lead to slashed services, higher charges and poorer pay and conditions for workers – said the BPSU would fight any move towards selling off public services to the highest bidder.
Mr Grant added: “In the midst of an economic recession and high levels of unemployment, it is sad that some members of our community are still looking to disadvantage public sector workers.
“Public sector workers have just recently agreed to a pay decrease. Are they not playing their part to aid the Government and help turn the economy around?
“Let us not forget that public sector workers have been providing excellent services to Bermuda and its citizens for years.”
Mr Grant pointed out it was private sector mismanagement that is largely to blame for the financial turmoil across the world.
He said: “Public sector workers did not cause the economic downturn or a decrease in Government’s revenues.
“IT seems as if everyone wants to put public service workers on the chopping block like they are used computers or machinery.
“They are our nurses, police officers, firemen, customs officers, postal workers and teachers. Public sector workers have children, mortgages, rent, school fees and bills to pay like everyone else.”
Mr Grant was speaking after calls for privatization of loss-making services like the Post Office, buses, ferries and airport operations.
Digicel CEO Wayne Caines told a Chamber of Commerce post-Budget meeting earlier this week that Government would need to look at privatization.
But he stressed that any move towards selling off public services should not cost jobs as people would be transferred to new employers.
He was backed by Chamber of Commerce economics committee chairman Peter Everson, who said privatization was “a no-brainer.”
But Mr Grant said: “The two services that individuals are quick to suggest should be privatized are public transportation and the postal service.”
But he said experience in New Zealand, where rail and ferry services had been privatized, but the government had been forced to buy them back years later.
And in the UK, where the sell-off of the Post Office had been deemed a failure by an independent report commissioned by government, also proved that privatization did not work.
The privatization of the railways in the UK also led to higher fares, concerns over safety and it is expected thousands of jobs may be lost through a recent review of the service.
Mr Grant said: “Bermuda is facing real problems and we need real solutions, not individuals throwing loose suggestions out that have serious negative effects on people’s lives.
The Bermuda Industrial Union has not yet responded to questions on its views on privatization.