Bermuda’s hospital workers were up in arms following word that their pay cheques will take another hit effective April 1, 2015.

One worker told Bermuda Real that it is not so much what the Bermuda Hospitals Board (BHB) has done but staff take issue with how the board chose to notify them.

On New Year’s Eve, staff were presented with letters from the board stapled to their pay cheques, notifying them that they will be required to pay a higher rate on their payroll tax.

The letter, dated December 31, 2014 was signed by BHB Chief Human Resource Officer, Christine Lloyd Jennings.

It reads as follows:

Dear Colleague

Re: Payroll Tax

We want to give you advance warning about some changes to your Payroll Tax contribution, that will come into effect in three month’s time on 1 April 2015.

The Board has approved BHB to move in line with Bermuda Legislation with regards to employee Payroll Tax contributions. Moving in line with Bermuda Legislation means you will contribute 5.35 percent from 1 April 2015, a change from the current 4.75 percent. This is a 0.5 percent increase.

Payroll Tax is jointly paid by an employee and the employer, and BHB has paid more than required. While it had available funds, BHB wanted to pass a benefit to its employees. However, BHB no longer is able to afford this benefit. The change will help reduce costs, while sustaining services and support operations.

We thank you for your understanding and your continued hard work through these challenging times.

Yours sincerely,

Christine Lloyd Jennings
Chief HR Officer

When contacted by Bermuda Real, Bermuda Public Services Union General Secretary, Ed Ball Jr noted that the law states that the employer “can charge up to a certain amount and that the employee can pay the maximum”.

But he was quick to add: “In these times the hospital doesn’t have any money and in these difficult times the question is where the money is going to come from,” he said.

“Obviously they’re going to try and get it from the workers and I know they’re not happy. But right now there’s a lot of things the workers and the unions won’t be happy with.

“The hospitals are in a bad financial position. They have a right to do that with regard to payroll tax and with respect to pensions, they’re trying to save jobs,” said Mr Ball. “We’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t that’s the position we’re in.

“I know BHB made five top jobs redundant as of the end of December 2014,” he added. “But we need to address the issues across the board in-depth.

“We need to look at the whole funding plan for the hospitals and healthcare generally in Bermuda because basically you need workers to man the hospitals. You have a new wing, an old wing plus Mid Atlantic Wellness Institute. There are three different buildings that have to be manned so there needs to be a better financial plan to address the shortfalls that are occurring at BHB,” he said.

“We need a more global recovery plan such that everyone understands the plan moving forward, that’s the workers, the politicians and the public in general who need to fully understand what exactly is the financial plight of the BHB. They haven’t come out and said it to the public generally, they’ve had small meetings up to now and that doesn’t cover everybody.”

Mr Ball concluded: “It makes no difference whether you support the Progressive Labour Party or the One Bermuda Alliance Government. This has got to be done because this issue supercedes political party lines, it’s about the country’s financial state of affairs and shared sacrifice.”

Efforts to reach Bermuda Industrial Union President Chris Furbert by post time were unsuccessful. Bermuda Real will update this story in subsequent posts on our website – BermudaReal.com.

looks set to be a very difficult year until finances change this is a two-three year recovery plan that requires all stakeholders to be open frank and honest with each other while preserving jobs.

By Ceola Wilson

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