Government Senator and Bermuda Public Services Union President told Labour Day marchers today that independence should be moved up on the list of priorities, now that the Progressive Labour Party has won the last General Election.

Speaking at the pre-Labour Day March outside of Bermuda Industrial Union headquarters this morning, the trade unionist also said it’s time for the introduction of a living wage and unemployment insurance in Bermuda.

The newly appointed Senator said that as a country, Bermudians “live in a system that is not designed for a segment of the population to get ahead”.

“We have seen the middle class deteriorate, we have seen our communities deteriorate, we have seen our family structure deteriorate,” said Senator Hayward.

“Some will say all by design… We have to shift the conversation, and remove ourselves from this colonial rule.

“We have to now look at independence as a viable option for our people so we can set our own agenda, so we can create our own system and so we can see our people get ahead.”

He was one of several speakers this morning, including Premier David Burt, BIU President Chris Furbert and Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown, who said the PLP government will move to create a stronger relationship between the government, trade unions, workers, and employers.

Home Affairs Minister Walton Brown

“We have already met with the entertainers’ union to ensure that entertainers get a place of priority in their own country,” he said.

“We have already fixed some of the challenges with the work permit policy, a policy that said employers no longer needed to submit police certificates for contract workers.

“Meanwhile, Aecon has a policy that says no Bermudian with a criminal conviction can work on the airport’s construction phase. We needed to fix that,” said the Minister.

“This government will address some of  the fundamental problems with the workplace. Employers are now increasingly hiring people only as contracted labour. They do that to avoid paying any benefits, which affects the workers as time goes on. We are fixing that.”

And when the House resumes later this week, he said: “In the next session, we will be looking at all the labour laws to see what changes can be made and should be made to ensure that workers rights are protected, are advanced, and we have a society that respects that.

BIU President Chris Furbert noted that under the One Bermuda Alliance government 80 percent of the job losses were jobs held by Bermudians.

“It shouldn’t have been 80/20. There’s no way they can justify that,” he said. “On July 18th, the house of cards came tumbling down.”

The Labour Day speeches were preceded by an opening prayer by People’s Campaign advocate the Reverend Nicholas Tweed, who acknowledged that they were all there “to celebrate labour – those upon whose backs the gates of justice and equality have been opened”.

Said Rev Tweed: “As we pray on this day to celebrate the sacrifices of those who have gone before us, upon whose shoulder we stand, we also pause to celebrate a new dawn – a new partnership between government and labour. A partnership that will help us blaze new trails to build a greater society based upon equality, jobs and justice.”