BUT leadership conundrum: When ‘the occupation’ isn’t nine-tenths of the law – The Royal Gazette
Created: March 16, 2022 07:59
This week I laid out before a group of teachers a few positions and made some assertions about the hierarchy of the Bermuda Teachers Union, hoping to be bumped and countered with facts to the contrary by one of its 1,000 members – but “nada”.
Nishanthi Bailey, President of the Bermuda Union of Teachers (Photograph courtesy of BUT website)
Today, it is appropriate to say to all of Bermuda – to its people, and in particular to parents, government institutions and all trade unions – that we must collectively help save Bermuda’s oldest trade union from a monumental disaster and international embarrassment.
I had said in this unrefuted dialogue that the direction of BUT at the present time is unconstitutional, therefore void. Explained differently, it does not exist because after Michael Charles was sacked as general secretary. this constitutional position has not been ratified by all members. Worse still, the “occupying” management has assumed without authority all management and executive functions, including financial control of BUT, which has significant assets and assured liquidity.
The executive also failed to adequately remedy the presidency when Nishanthi Bailey lost her teaching job, rendering her ineligible for the post, where she should have recused herself. Instead, the president went on and assumed a term as head of the Bermuda Trades Union Congress. These were very serious allegations that should not be countered and apparently excused by some members out of expediency.
At substantial cost to members, the “occupiers” have sworn a group to secrecy under nondisclosure agreements, where BUT’s initiatives and programs are self-approved. This act alone is seriously unconstitutional. Obviously they believe they are doing the right thing for the union. However, they have no authority to consider such power in themselves because that power belongs to the base, whether they like it or not.
This situation reminds us of the question posed to Benjamin Franklin in 1787 after the constitutional conference about the type of government they had. He replied, “It’s a republic if we can keep it.”
BUT was founded as a republic where the people are the authority. But again, and likewise, only if they can keep it.
The new occupants have no sense of this kind of structural philosophy and have already changed this idea in their practice, and would spend BUT funds to change the constitution, claiming it is old and outdated if left as it is.
The occupiers removed the only constitutional leadership they had in the summer of last year without the full approval or knowledge of the body, as Covid restrictions prevented the possibility of open meetings – the mark factory of the Bermuda Union of Teachers.
They started rumors as to why Dr. Charles was fired; one wonders what was done with the funds set aside for his salary. BUT has hired expensive lawyers to wage a legal battle against the Ministry of Education’s dismissal of the now ‘occupying’ president, and it’s an unwinnable battle, all under the cloak of secrecy with the money. of the people (of the teachers).
Personal issues are not the responsibility of BUT unless the members deem it so.
The Department of Education, perhaps once again, needs to clarify to the public whether the “occupying” president, who has been officially adopted and ratified, is still a teacher – and, if not, why she was fired. This is because she cannot be a member of BUT, let alone its president if she is not a teacher. The ministry owes this clarity to the public and the president owes this to the body. It’s not supposed to be a secret among a select club of members until they sort it out.
Although the BUT is an autonomous group of teachers, it is the teachers’ union of “Bermuda” and responsible to all as incorporated under our law and laws. Without public schools, it would not exist.
The occupiers cannot fix the debacle, in particular, and they must not misuse BUT funds to attempt to change the constitution to bring about a personal remedy by altering the structure of the whole BUT in the process.
We must preserve the union from any reinterpretation. The founding fathers envisioned a union whose members would all be equal; they had no conception of a corporation of teachers with a CEO in place.