BPSU president Kevin Grant *File photo
BPSU president Kevin Grant *File photo

The handling of an announcement that the Department of Tourism was to be axed in favour of a new independent Tourism Authority was “a PR disaster” for Government, a union leader said yesterday.

And Kevin Grant, president of the white collar union BPSU, was backed by experienced media professionals, who questioned the timing of the announcement that 40 posts were to go, although staff will be able to apply for jobs at the new authority or move elsewhere in the Civil Service.

Mr Grant said: “I wouldn’t say the announcement that it was happening was a surprise — but it was much more of a surprise in the way it was announced.

“It was a PR disaster — my members are running about crazy right now because they are concerned about a precedent being set.

“When you have a climate such as this, where there is so much tension, the way things are done has to be more collaborative and strategic so we all agree and see the benefit for the country.”

He was speaking after Tourism Minister Shawn Crockwell told Department of Tourism staff on Tuesday that their posts would disappear, then travelled to New York to deliver the same news to overseas employees.

The Government’s department of communications only issued a press release announcing the move on Wednesday afternoon – after rumours of job losses gained currency.

The OBA made a pre-election pledge that there would be no compulsory redundancies in the public service and that any reductions would come through leaving non-essential posts vacant.

One veteran media and PR professional told us: “My belief is the announcement was made prematurely and I imagine what was going through the Minister’s mind was that he must give these people time to sort their lives and employment out.” 

He added: “Any new Government makes blunders — when you look back at when the PLP first won power, they didn’t do a particularly good job either.

“Ministers have to experiment and find their feet where communications are concerned.”

Yesterday, the Government appeared to underscore the point — by throwing a wet blanket over the issue. We filed a series of questions for Tourism Minister Shawn
Crockwell and this is what we got back from a spokesman: 

“All media have asked various questions in relation to yesterday’s press release. Rather than reply with the same response to everyone individually, please use the following statement:

 “While discussions with Bermuda Department of Tourism Staff and Bermuda Public Services Union officials are ongoing, it would be inappropriate to discuss any further details of the transition to the Tourism Authority. 

“Details of the transition will be explained once the legislation is tabled and debated in the House of Assembly in September.” n