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BUT members call for special meeting over claims of unauthorised decisions

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Dr Leonard Santucci, Bermuda Union of Teachers representative at The Berkeley Institute, along with 45 other members, have requested a special meeting to vote down decisions made by the union apparently without general membership consent (File photograph)
The Bermuda Union of Teachers (File image)
Mike Charles, the former general secretary of the Bermuda Union of Teachers (File photograph)

Almost 50 members of the Bermuda Union of Teachers have requested a special meeting to vote down decisions apparently made by the union’s executive committee without general membership consent.

Leonard Santucci, the BUT representative for The Berkeley Institute, said on behalf of the group which predominantly work at the school, that as mandated in the union’s constitution, the general membership has supreme authority yet were bypassed in the decision to remove former general secretary Mike Charles in June.

He said the executive committee also appointed three people to take over the general secretary role; Angel Heyliger, a trustee, Anthony Wolffe, former BUT president, and Dante Cooper who was appointed as part-time General Secretary Designate, without the ratification of the general membership.

Dr Santucci claimed that bullying and sexual harassment policies were “implemented and updated” by the executive committee that were not ratified by the membership.

He added that the union has not filed financial audits since 2016, a responsibility he says according to the constitution, fell to Nishanthi Bailey, the current president, during her former role as treasurer, and that the general membership does not know where the union stands financially.

Dr Santucci claimed that attempts to hold the special general membership meeting have faced resistance.

“It appears as if the executive officers and executive committee have forgotten the constitution and the authority of the members.

“How do you approve policies that impact the constitution without participation of the general membership?

“How do you create and remunerate a position without ratification by the general membership?

“I believe as the general membership becomes more familiar with their deeds over and above the dictates of the constitution, they too will join us in the call for a special general membership meeting.”

The BUT constitution, which appears to have been removed from the union’s website, reads: “The Supreme Authority of the Union shall be vested in the Biennial General Conference and, subject to that Authority, the Union shall be governed by the Executive Committee and, in between meeting of the Executive Committee, by the Officers of the Executive Committee.”

Biennial General Conference is a meeting held every two years by the general membership.

Dr Santucci highlighted Article VI of the constitution titled “Organisational Structure of the of Union” under which Biennial General Conference/General Membership Meeting is listed at the top above the executive committee and then officers of the executive committee.

According to the constitution, if needs be, a special general membership meeting can be conveyed on the written request of 30 or more members to the executive committee, stating the reason for the meeting, and 46 members have signed off on the request, Dr Santucci said.

An in person meeting was held with school union representatives on June 22. Dr Santucci said no mention was made during the meeting of the above decisions.

On June 25, an internal communiqué was distributed to the membership informing them of the decisions.

On September 8, the members lodged a formal request for a special general membership meeting during which they would have the opportunity to vote down the decisions made.

To date a special general membership meeting has not been arranged.

The BUT was asked for a comment but did not respond to questions by press time.