BUT whistleblower suspended over constitution breach allegations
An official was yesterday suspended from the teachers’ union after he claimed the executive had violated its constitution.
Leonard Santucci, who was the Bermuda Union of Teachers representative at the Berkeley Institute, was told in a letter from Anthony Wolffe, the union’s new general secretary, that the executive committee had imposed the penalty after he highlighted his complaints in the media.
Mr Wolffe wrote: “All posts and privileges afforded to members of our union are withdrawn from you effective immediately, including that of your current post of school union representative for The Berkeley Institute.”
He added that the decision meant Dr Santucci, who had been nominated to run for the union vice-president, was no longer eligible to run in elections scheduled for October 20 and 21.
The letter said that Dr Santucci breached confidentiality by speaking to the media on “internal union business” discussed at a representatives’ meeting and in internal correspondence.
Mr Wolffe wrote: “These unfortunate events have brought our union into public disrepute as we have received many expressions of a lack of trust, a sense of disunity, and an air of discomfort from other colleague school representatives and BUT members as a direct result of your actions.”
He said the suspension was in line with the union constitution’s section on discipline.
The section said that any member could be suspended by the executive committee and later expelled from the union “if the executive committee’s proposed action is endorsed by a simple majority vote at the next general meeting”.
But Dr Santucci vowed to defend himself at the union’s annual general meeting, scheduled for November 10.
He said: “When you stand up for your rights, when you speak up and speak out, it is called leadership.
“I have the right to speak at the annual general meeting and I plan to do just that.”
Dr Santucci added: “The executive committee of the union would rather get rid of you than answer the questions at hand.”
The BUT move came after Dr Santucci and 45 union members he represented last month demanded a special general membership meeting to discuss their concerns over appointments, including the promotion of Dante Cooper to general secretary designate.
The rebel group also objected to policies they claimed were implemented without the approval of the union membership.
Dr Santucci said that the BUT’s financial audits had not been submitted since 2016 which he insisted was a breach of labour legislation.
He added he had tried to resolve the problems behind closed doors with Nishanthi Bailey, the union’s president.
But he added the members’ request for a special meeting to tackle their concerns faced resistance from the executive committee and he was forced to go public after “confusion and push back”.
The BUT constitution says that “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 meetings of the executive committee, by the officers of the executive committee”.
The Royal Gazette revealed earlier this week that Dr Santucci was branded “treasonous” by the executive committee after he aired the dispute in public.
Dr Santucci appealed to BUT members to read the union constitution, as well as legislation designed to regulate trade unions.
He said: “If I am correct, the special general membership meeting should pre-empt all other union activity.
“It should be held before the election of officers, but they are proposing to have a drive-by election over two days on October 20 and 21.
“They are trying to hold the elections first so they can get their people re-elected prior to holding a special general membership meeting.”
Dr Santucci added: “It is my conviction that the current leadership cannot provide a special general membership meeting because at present they are in violation of the constitution and the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidated) Act 2021 as it pertains to submitting their audited statements which, according to the constitution, should be done annually, and in the appointment of general secretary designate.
“That is a post that doesn’t exist in the constitution, which was not ratified by the general membership but which is remunerated by the general membership.”
The BUT could not be contacted for comment last night.