Premier Paula Cox told the crowd "everybody has to put their shoulders to the wheel". *Photo by Raymond Hainey
Premier Paula Cox told the crowd "everybody has to put their shoulders to the wheel". *Photo by Raymond Hainey

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 3: Hundreds of trades unionists on Monday marched through Hamilton to celebrate Labour Day as speakers called for national unity amid the global financial crisis.

Premier Paula Cox praised Government MPs and Ministers who had volunteered to take a five per cent pay cut.

And she said: "We are now in a most unusual situation and what it requires is that everybody has to put their shoulders to the wheel, stand firm, stand strong and work to confront the challenges."

Ms Cox praised the contribution of tradesmen and women across the island who were "helping to keep the island running."

She added: "Today we honour you - we stand strong with you and thank you for all of your hard work in keeping Bermuda running."

Ms Cox said: "Harmonious labour relations are absolutely vital to our economic well-being and political stability."

She added the Labour movement had made a huge contribution to the economic development of Bermuda.

And she called for "mutual respect, trust and a willingness to compromise in the interests of the nation" to continue as Bermuda fights its way out of recession.

Opposition leader Craig Cannonier said Labour Day was a day to salute workers who had helped make Bermuda "one of the wonders of the world."

And he added: "We must remember that, during these challenging times, we are our brother's keeper."

He said a friend who lost an expensive phone at Harbour Nights thought it had gone for good - until a taxi driver who had been searching the crowd for him returned it.

Mr Cannonier added: "That's what we celebrate - that's what makes us special. We must continue to look out for each other."

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Patrice Minors told the crowd outside the BIU HQ in Hamilton's Union Square: "Today is your day - today we thank you for everything you do."

She acknowledged Bermudians had suffered from the downturn and from gun violence that has claimed lives.

But she said that people had been pulling together, looking after each other and taking pride in their children's achievements.

Bermuda Public Services Union president Kevin Grant said he remained convinced that "workers are the ones who will turn this country around."

He added: "The challenges we see today, we have never seen before - I'm sure we all realise these are different times and we need to do things differently.

"We have to be more inventive and creative in providing services for our members."

Bermuda Industrial Union president Chris Furbert did not speak at the pre-march rally.

But he said afterwards: "It's been a great day out and everybody has been happy. It's very satisfactory.

"We need more social dialogue between Government, employers and unions. I hope to see that in the coming year.

"All three organisations have a whole lot to look forward to if they work together, but it's going to take commitment."

Other speakers included Wendell "Shine" Hayward of the Bermuda Trades Union Congress and Michael Charles of the Bermuda Union of Teachers.