Chris Furbert and Ed Ball sit atop icebergs in a field of icebergs – an ice-field. Effectively, the pair head the Bermuda Trades Union Congress. The BTUC probably has a total membership around 9,000. Of these 9,000, about 7,500 are Government/Quango workers. It is the 7,500 Government/Quango workers who create the ice-field effect.

The last count in 2012 reported that Bermuda had about 35,500 workers (from actuaries to waiters) filling jobs in Bermuda. Of these 35,500 workers, about 7,500 worked for Government/Quangos, leaving 28,000 working in the private sector. The 28,000 private sector workers provide the taxes that pay the 7,500 Government/Quango workers. 

Those are the tips of several icebergs. Other facts create the much larger, more dangerous, but invisible underwater parts of all those icebergs.

In 2004, when foreign-owned HSBC bought out Bank of Bermuda, the locally-owned Bank of Bermuda had well over 1,200 employees working in Bermuda. In 2014, HSBC/Bank of Bermuda has fewer than 650 employees working in Bermuda. That’s a nine year loss of over 550 jobs. 

Nothing evil or nasty is implied or suggested in that simple recitation of numbers.  

Those 550 lost jobs included a very large number of Bermudians. Those Bermudians are the expensively educated sons and daughters of Bermudians who worked hard, sacrificed, and invested millions of dollars in their sons’ and daughters’ educations. Many of the parents who made that sacrifice will be today’s older blue and white collar workers.

The HSBC/BoB experience is the simplest and clearest example of large-scale private sector job losses in Bermuda. These and other private sector job loss facts are mixed and frozen into the facts that create the invisible underwater portions of the icebergs.

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t private sector employment peak in 2006, there were 33,061 people filling private sector jobs in Bermuda. By 2012, the private sector- filled job count was down to 28,000. Between 2006 and 2012, over 5,000 local private sector jobs disappeared. Non-unionized segments formed the overwhelming majority of those disappeared private sector jobs.

No one marched for the 550 jobs lost at HSBC/BoB. No one marched for the 5,000 private sector jobs lost since 2006. The whole of the BIU marched in the interest of the five BIU workers at Hamilton Princess.

Like or dislike, agree or disagree, the BIU fought for its members. That’s what Unions are supposed to do.  Sometimes they lose. Sometimes they win. 

Since December 2010, I have consistently written and said that Government must cut its Personnel costs. I hold that those cost cuts need to be much higher than the 4.6% “furlough day” cuts made in September 2013.

I hold that there must be even more cuts in Personnel costs, and that higher earners should take bigger cuts. In maintaining that stance, I am fully aware that all these cuts are against the individual interests of every one of those 7,500 Government/Quango workers. I fully accept that the BTUC will fight every step and every inch of the way towards the solution that will finally be applied. That is how business, Government, and the economy work.

These 7,500 workers are already swimming through the ice-field created by the 5,000 jobs already lost in the private sector as Bermuda’s new economy changed and then began shrinking. The ice-bergs are added to by the 2,000 to 3,000 family and friends who make up today’s currently unemployed Bermudians. These 7,500 see that all those job losses happened almost by stealth.  Sometimes by deliberate stealth.

Ultimately, good or bad, every worker has a right to stand his or her ground on any issue. It’s a right won through centuries of national and civil wars, riots, strikes, demonstrations; and through changes in laws as ordinary men and women fought their way out of serfdom and slavery to democratic equality.

That history records that those changes came about only after struggles. Rarely peaceful. Most often expensive, painful, and bloody. Even here in Bermuda.

Going forward, in the near term, Bermuda faces inevitable social turbulence. The private sector will likely lose more jobs. The Government sector must ultimately cost less and this will lead, inevitably, to Government sector job reductions. 

The BTUC will fight. The BTUC should fight. The rest of us — voters, taxpayers, bosses, non-union workers, Government — must work together as we all help navigate the “good ship Bermuda” through this never-before-experienced ice-field. 

Chris Furbert and Ed Ball have the extra-ordinarily difficult task of ultimately getting their members to accept the reality of current and future job losses.

Only idiots and fools will tamper with the “good ship Bermuda’s” radar, sonar, and charts. Thankfully, one such idiot has been transferred out of Bermuda; and, as a lesson and example, the foolish ‘Porch Queen’ has been fired.