• The following post was published by Ryan Robinson Perinchief on Facebook, on September 27, 2019 & released for publication by Bermuda Real

By not demanding a minimum wage for Bermuda, Bermudians are:

1) undercutting their own labour force by encouraging the importation of foreign workers, many of whom work for wages that Bermudians with families and local obligations can not afford to work for, such as $6 an hour; and

2) Contributing to and being complacent in, the exploitation of foreign workers and the modern-day slave trade. It is this point which receives little to no attention in Bermuda.

Many of these foreign workers arrive in Bermuda with promises of food, housing and accommodation, but have little knowledge of the fact that we have the highest cost of living in the world. Many are forced to work under inhumane conditions and some even have their passports confiscated by their employer. We have all heard the stories of these foreign workers, particularly those from the Philippines and other southeast Asian countries, who are exploited and abused, but are threatened with getting sent back home if they reach out for help.

Worse still, is the fact that many black Bermudians, frustrated by being shut out of opportunities for low-skilled or entry level jobs, take their frustrations out on other people of colour such as the Filipino community instead of the employers and government who facilitate this exploitation. We will even criticise these foreign workers for having poor English skills, without asking questions like: “If they can barely speak English, how do we know that they are here under their own free will? How do we know that they fully understood the terms and conditions of the job they are arriving to do, or their rights? How can we guarantee that they are being treated fairly? Are they happy living in a country where they are forced to socialise only with persons from their mother country due to social isolation and language barriers?”

The knock-off effect of this situation is that we have many foreign workers here in Bermuda who are essentially “invisible” – far away from home, working or living under exploitative conditions, with no chance of receiving help from either their employer who exploits them, the government who will deport them, and the locals who despise them. All three groups deny them their humanity.

Ultimately, it is ludicrous that in 2019 – Bermuda, the most expensive country in the world, still does not have a minimum wage. And it is an embarrassing abomination that an island as small as ours has not found a way to close the gap leaving qualified Bermudians unemployed and low-skilled exploited workers in the abyss.

Note: these circumstances may also apply to workers from various other nationalities, including persons from the Caribbean and Portuguese communities and ethnicities. However, I have highlighted the Filipino and Southeast Asian communities specifically because – 1) despite having a large presence here, they are nearly always left out of any conversations on exploitation, oppression, or on national topics such as immigration, healthcare, labour rights and the minimum wage. 2) Many of them also either cannot or do not interact outside of their own community due to language barriers, personal safety risks, and social outcast status. 3) they receive little to no support from all sectors and have no recourse, political or otherwise.

The wider point here, of course, is that the way in which Black Bermudians demean, exploit and outright mistreat many unskilled Filipino “foreign workers” whilst simultaneously envying, respecting and kissing up to the many white and European “expats” is a prime example of how racism and capitalism work together to pit poor and coloured people against each other as they completely turn a blind eye to the oppression caused by the main actors within our fundamentally white and rich dominated capitalist social hierarchy.