Ducking the issue? The ducking stool is a popular tourist attraction – but will a new independent Tourism Authority bring visitors flooding in and allow staff to keep Civil Service-style pay, conditions and pensions? *File photo
Ducking the issue? The ducking stool is a popular tourist attraction – but will a new independent Tourism Authority bring visitors flooding in and allow staff to keep Civil Service-style pay, conditions and pensions? *File photo

White collar union BPSU is to seek assurances over pay and benefits for staff transferred from Government’s axed Department of Tourism.

BPSU president Kevin Grant said: “Our members are going to be concerned as to whether or not they will receive the same pensions as they had in their original posts.

“Pension issues need to be looked at — that’s something which would certainly have to be hammered out.”

And he suggested that – like the new Telecommunications Authority – Civil Service staff could be seconded so they could keep their current pay and conditions and not break their Government service.

Mr Grant was speaking after Government announced this week that around 40 Government posts in the Tourism Department were to go.

The Department is to be axed in favour of a new independent Tourism Authority. Department employees will have to apply for jobs with the new body, although there are no guarantees on job offers, or opt to be transferred elsewhere in the Civil Service.

Mr Grant said: “We would have probably preferred a little bit more dialogue so we can push out the many questions our members have.”

Speaking after staff were told of the changes, Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell said: “The Government promised that we would not make any civil servants redundant and we have kept that promise as all Bermuda Department of Tourism employees that are unsuccessful in securing a position with the new Authority will be offered alternative employment within Government.”

The news was broken to staff in Bermuda on Tuesday by Mr Crockwell, who then travelled to New York to deliver the same message to overseas staff.

Legislation to set up the new Tourism Authority will be tabled in the House of Assembly next month and the new Authority is expected to take over by the end of March next year.

An executive steering committee, under hotelier David Dowell, who is to be chairman of the Tourism Authority, will be interim in charge of tourism in the run-up to the Tourism Authority taking over.

Mr Crockwell added that staff titles, pay and benefits for employees will be set by the new independent Authority.

But Mr Grant said union negotiators had not agreed to its members applying for new posts in the QUANGO-style authority.

He added: “That is the management’s position.”

And he said: “We have not compromised in our remit to have continued employment for our Civil Service members and will do all that we can to ensure that the tourism staff, both locally and overseas,,will remain employed.”

Mr Grant added: “The announcement sent shock waves and it didn’t have to be done that way. These sorts of things need to be talked about.

“Staff might get the same pay, but will they get the same benefits and allowances? These things need to be ironed out and discussed before any transition.”

He added: “One thing my colleagues have asked me to stress is we do encourage innovation and creativity to improve our product, but we just feel we need to go about it in the right way.”