Hard on the heels of the recent America’s Cup race series in Bermuda’s Great Sound, comes word that “dozens of foreign waiters and waitresses” were brought in to serve food and beverages at the AC Village while “Bermudians were and remain unemployed”.
Progressive Labour Party Senator Kim Wilkerson made the disclosure on Bermuda’s economy, jobs and unemployment earlier this week.
The PLP spokeswoman for Economic Development in the Upper House, told the media that some of the servers in question were British university students, who were hired despite the fact that several Bermudians, including students home for the summer, remain unemployed. Given the current status of unemployment, Sen Wilkerson questioned employment policy in Bermuda.
“Bermudians have had to stand by and watch 85 telecommunications technicians land in the middle of the night and work for months and months. Dozens of foreign waiters and waitresses brought in to serve food and drink at America’s Cup Village while Bermudians were and remain unemployed,” said Sen Wilkerson.
“We have been made to understand that some of the servers at America’s Cup were in fact British university students who were fortunate that their Summer job was in Bermuda this year!
“While that was indeed a fantastic opportunity for those students, we know that there were Bermudian university students who were unemployed.
“As far as Bermudian employment is concerned, our economy is stagnant. Bermudians are suffering from the lack of jobs and the lack of opportunity. Once in government, the PLP will move quickly and aggressively to address these problems and begin getting Bermudians back to work.
“The PLP will amend the Employment Act to ensure that no Bermudian is unemployed due to ‘over qualification’. You know the story: A Bermudian accountant, unemployed for two years finally gets short-listed for a bookkeeper’s job. At the interview however, they are told they are ‘over-qualified’ and a foreign bookkeeper is hired; those days are over,” she said.
When contacted by Bermuda Real, ACBDA co-chairman Mike Winfield did not refute Sen Wilkerson’s assertion. “While the employment within the America’s Cup Village was not managed by the ACBDA, it is important to us that the facts of what happened during the America’s Cup remain that, factual,” he said.
“We find it disappointing that anyone would now seek to discredit a community-based apolitical event, one that served Bermuda well, engaged so much of our community positively and collectively and which has been heralded as a resounding success by so many. This event relied upon people from all walks of life, all trades and professions and we proved that as a community when we work together we can not only achieve but also exceed expectations.”
But he said: “In some cases the private lounges were managed by non-Bermudian staff, some on a volunteer basis as they had previous America’s Cup event experience and only after efforts were made to find local staff.”
The ACBDA co-chairman also stressed that “every public food and beverage facility in the America’s Cup Village was owned and operated and fully staffed by Bermudians”.
“This represented a significant number of additional jobs held by Bermudians for the duration of AC35. 75% of those working at the Village food and beverage were additional jobs, that is, people who were hired specifically for the America’s Cup by the local vendors.
“Smokin Barrell, Rosas, Bermuda Pie company, Devil’s Isle and Docksiders, Ashley’s Lemonade and more, all hired additional staff to meet the demands of the event.
“The Goslings Dark n Stormy Bar, the Moet bar and the Longtail Lounge used Bermudian staff, some of them were Bermudian students and adults who were living abroad and who returned home to be a part of the historic event,” he said.
“Behind the scenes in the hospitality areas a number of other Bermudians worked in the kitchens, proving again that America’s Cup provided additional jobs for Bermudians. Let’s try and keep to the facts!”
Asked for her reaction to the ACBDA response, Sen Wilkerson said: “We are grateful for the response from ACBDA which does not refute, but in fact confirms our understanding that non-Bermudian staff were working at the America’s Cup Village.”
But she said putting the growing number of unemployed or underemployed Bermudians back to work remains her party’s
top priority, which is why she said the PLP will “review the industries that historically require the most work permits”.
In her statement on Wednesday, she said “with the exception of the international business sector”, the PLP review will “identify what makes foreign labour more attractive or more qualified, so that over the next year we can put in place plans to sustainably educate, train and re-tool” Bermudians.
That review will include “the often talked about issue of ‘work ethic’ – the concept of giving value for a day’s work”, particularly for young people in “high risk situations”, to give them “the skills needed to build careers”. The party will also review Bermuda’s tax structure “to identify and levers to incentivize Bermudian employment”.
The National Workforce Development Plan will also be reviewed to assess the long-term changes needed to grow Bermuda’s economy on a “sustainable basis”.
“This group will be empowered to make a wholesale review of government policies and ensure that we are best utilizing the skills of our workers while creating an environment for employers to grow and create jobs.
“We are eager to get Bermuda working again. The unfulfilled promises that played on anxious, unemployed Bermudians in 2012 will not work in 2017,” she said.
“Progress is a choice. Job creation is a choice. Whether we give our children a future of more or a future of less is also a choice.
“Bermuda works with the PLP.”