FRIDAY, APR. 8: ‘Blue collar’ Government workers have rejected a pay freeze and called on MPs to lead the way by cutting their own salaries.

Union boss Chris Furbert announced this afternoon workers — including bus and ferry drivers, road crews and parks employers — were unwilling to accept the ‘double whammy’ of a pay-freeze and a reduction in overtime pay.

He said workers were willing to help but felt they were being asked to bear the burden of the recession alone.

Mr Furbert, speaking at a press conference at BIU headquarters, confirmed that the Union had rejected Government’s terms. The two parties will now go back to the negotiating table in a bid to reach a compromise.

Mr Furbert said BELCO, island supermarkets and insurance firms were all raising prices while working class people were being asked to take cuts.

And he said union members felt that Government MPs should take a pay cut too.

Mr Furbert believes the situation can be resolved without any escalation and gave no indication of industrial action over the dispute.

He said workers might have accepted a pay freeze or an ‘overtime for straight time’ deal, but not both.

“The workers are very concerned about the current situation and naturally enough they want to do what they can to help.

“They asked me whether the MPs are being asked to take a pay cut, I said I’m not aware of that. They feel ‘we are being asked to sacrifice, they should do it from the top’.“He said he had explained to the workers that Government MPs had taken a wage freeze for the last three years. But he said members felt more sacrifice was needed.

“If the Government came along and said ‘we will take a five per cent cut in salary’ that probably would have done it.”

He added that workers were very concerned about the rising cost of living and many felt they could not afford to take a wage freeze.

“The workers want to help but prices continue to rise. Go to the grocery store, prices are going up.”

He said if supermarkets, BELCO and insurance firms revised their rate increases, the pay freeze would be more palatable.

And he urged the country to come together to help ease Bermuda through the recession instead of heaping all the burden on the working class.

“We can agree to disagree but we have got to find resolutions. We all got into this together, we have to come out of this together.”