Shadow Minister Rolfe Commissiong *File photo
Shadow Minister Rolfe Commissiong *File photo

The 2012 Employment Survey while revealing the loss of 2000 jobs from our economy also highlights significant levels of inequity in pay based on race and national origin.

The Survey shows that foreign workers earn on average, 40% more than Bermudians. It further shows that despite the end of overt racial discrimination in employment and economic opportunity, whites workers today on average earn 50% more than black workers.

The divide which was fairly high at 40 percent in  2007 has actually grown. Clearly at least with respect to the employment market, there are two Bermudas; One white, one black and becoming more unequal.

The PLP stands ready to join with the OBA to begin the hard work of turning around these unacceptable trends because we believe that neither Bermuda’s economic, nor social cohesion can be maintained without eliminating this disparity.

The PLP recommends:

• Continuing to strengthen public education with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math. All paired with a rigorous technical education program that meets and anticipates the growing demand for workers with skilled technological knowledge.

• Promoting the adoption of critical thinking skills amongst our students.  Finland is widely acknowledged and admired in having one of the most successful school systems. Its students who are immersed in critical thinking from a young age leave high school and college and are fully ready to enter one of the most innovative economies in the world. They have even coined a phrase for it, “innovation ready.”

• Continuing to develop and hone our workforce development system(s) which ideally, should work seamlessly with our education system(s).

This will allow us to develop a more people centered model of development and better align our education and training to the global economy.

Education and workforce development is only part of it. Studies have continually shown that blacks and whites with the same qualifications will experience disparate outcomes in the workplace with respect to employment, promotion, salary and benefits.

We propose:

• Policy and legislative options including affirmative action style programmes be examined and where necessary be enacted to ensure equal opportunity and racial equity.

• Immigration policies, particularly with respect to the work permit regime be toughened and enforcement measures strengthened to address the marginalization of black and Bermudian workers.

• The Minister of Home Affairs call a tripartite meeting to include trade union representatives and business leaders to address the issues that have been highlighted above.

Finally, government alone cannot empower the black community.  We must encourage a cultural renaissance, which promotes entrepreneurship and self-determination within our community and in the generations that follow.  While not everyone can be a business owner, we must begin to examine ways that we can successfully create businesses for ourselves, employ ourselves, and employ others.  We must envision a Bermuda where determined black Bermudians face no obstacles to employment, self determination or empowerment.