Video: Teachers Union Press Conference

January 7, 2022

[Updated] The Bermuda Union of Teachers [BUT] is holding a press conference this afternoon [Jan 7] and we will have additional coverage later on and in the meantime the live video is below.

Update: The live broadcast has concluded and the 22-minute replay is below

Update 8.01pm: Speaking today, the B.U.T President Nishanthi Bailey said, “The executive committee of the Bermuda Union of Teachers have made several efforts to communicate and collaborate with the Ministry and Department of Education over the past several months.

“Our purpose for collaboration was to present a unified front in the face of the ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic as we collectively facilitate the business of teaching and learning for our public school students.

“The Ministry and Department of Education have not engaged us in collaboration as outlined in our collective bargaining agreement this school year and have instead forged ahead with policies seemingly designed to fabricate a sense of anxiety and fear in our members that is laced with an unnecessary level of control. This will not stand.

“We have faithfully worked with the Ministry and Department since the onset of Covid-19 in 2020. In the midst of enduring pay cuts, intrusive testing regimens, sudden schedule shifts, untold pressures to perform at unreasonable levels and simply outrageous media releases by the Ministry of Education that have not represented the realities of what is truly taking place in our public schools.

“This has become far too much to quietly accept. Our efforts to address the concerns of our 800 plus members who daily make the inner workings of teaching and learning tick, have been dismissed by their employers causing a once amicable alliance in the face of unprecedented conditions to deteriorate into numerous tense impasses.

“We are at a point where we feel it is prudent to act. We have requested that the Education Emergency Measures Committee, the EEMC be reconvened urgently and that the current rollout of the massively botched January return to school be rethought and aligned with the expert advice of those we have put in place to do just that.

“The many missteps on the part of the Ministry of Education are far too numerous during a time when effective, proactive leadership is most vital. The most important being their failure to convene the EEMC where all stakeholders could have collaboratively and effectively planned to avoid the situation we are currently facing.

“Instead of the Ministry and Department of Education acknowledging the many flaws with their return to school plan or lack thereof, teachers are now being asked to conform to irrational directives, some that go against the government’s national advice and are being threatened of having their pay docked for reasonable actions.

“Enough is enough. The bullying, demonizing and finger pointing must stop immediately if we are to successfully navigate our way through this current state of affairs. Teachers are not the villains of this narrative and no one should be feeling bullied, threatened or penalized as a result of unreasonable requests that do nothing to aid in solving the crisis we are currently facing. As a matter of fact, it will not be tolerated.

“Our teachers are hardworking members of this community who are charged with going into what is categorized as a medium risk environment daily. They do so for the love of this noble profession and most importantly for their students. A school building is a place that receives contact from every corner of our community.

“Teachers are charged with caring for all students and therefore all families in our country. When we request a staggered return to school or a rescheduling of the testing regime or to just simply sit down at the table with those who have the decision making power, it is not to make anything more convenient for us. It is to protect our entire community during this health crisis.”

Ms Bailey added that the “outrage that comes with school not starting in person on time is nothing next to the outrage” we would hear if starting “school too early directly led to another spike of this virus.”

“We must do better,” she added. “Almost two years of facing this virus. Two years worth of data points. Two years worth of last minute decisions. Two years worth of unnecessary inconveniences to our teachers, students, parents and wider community. It has been two years.

“We really should have it together by now for most situations. We experienced enough scenarios to be able to collaboratively plan, adequately, in a timely fashion for these times that we are living in. Until this pandemic is a distant memory, the EEMC must function. The Ministry must collaborate with all stakeholders, this Union included.

“The Department of Education must listen more than what they have recently demonstrated their willingness to. Everyone who has decision making power must respect, consider and act on the advice of those who are most equipped to give it.

“Bermuda, if we truly mean we are in this together, everyone, employers included must collectively do their part and demonstrate a level of understanding, rationality, flexibility and most importantly, make it make sense.”

- Please note the text is a manual transcription done as best as able.

Update 8pm: OBA Shadow Education Minister Ben Smith said, “Educators in the Bermuda Public School System deserve to have their voices heard. It was disheartening to hear Bermuda Union of Teachers (BUT) President Nishanthi Bailey speak at the press conference. The last thing teachers need is to feel like they don’t matter.

“Along with having to navigate these unprecedented times, which have been stressful to say the least, why should teachers feel like they are being bullied into compliance by the Ministry of Education?

“It’s time for the Ministry to be willing to meet with the BUT in earnest and work collaboratively for the betterment of educators and students in the Bermuda Public School System. This is not the time for divisiveness.”

Update 10.20pm: The Ministry of Education has responded, with a spokesperson saying, “The Ministry confirms that it has met with the BUT today to discuss Bermuda’s public schools’ reopening and is aware of the BUT’s concerns shared in their press statement today.

“The BUT has raised several points that the Ministry explained and clarified with all parties agreeing that the priority is to ensure safe resumption of services to students.

“Concerning the issue of pay deductions raised by the union, the Ministry will be investigating communications regarding this.

Acting Minister of Education Tinee Furbert stated, “We are working on creating strong communication channels with the BUT, parents and stakeholders as we manage issues around the return to in-school teaching and learning. Communication between all parties is especially critical as we navigate the protocols directly impacted by the pandemic.”

“The decision to open schools is one that is driven by the need to make 2022 different to 2020 and 2021; our children must be given every opportunity to resume critical in-person learning.”

A spokesperson added, “The MDLs testing plan for the safe reopening of schools was confirmed on December 13th. It was shared with the Department who then shared it with school leaders, staff and parents that same week.

“After almost two years of interrupted education for Bermuda’s children, Minister Furbert added, “Parents and teachers have sacrificed so much to do all they can to provide learning experiences of value, but nothing takes the place of the open school environment and the personal contact between teachers and their students.

“This Government is committed to working with all stakeholders who share that objective and are likewise determined to support working parents and guardians who invest so much in the public school system. This all begins with entrusting their children to the teaching and learning it provides.”

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Comments (9)

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  1. John Smith says:

    The President definitely came across as angry. Would hate to be on their wrong side

    • Answer says:

      She’s angry because her own union of teachers is not even listening to her.

  2. Wow.. sounds angry, I am wondering why the BUT doesn’t cut ” This Government ” some slack? Don’t they know that most of the plp cabinet thought it wise to take extended holidays all at the same time, and because of that they didn’t have the time to deal with their issues..

    It’s long past time these educators, educate themselves when it comes to the fact that votes always have consequences, and being the vast majority of them voted for exactly what they are getting, they need to learn from their mistakes, and vote accordingly next time.

    And that ends my class today..

  3. Well said! says:

    Teachers have had to teach under the most difficult situation for the past two years. Try to keep a 6 year olds attention via zoom! One day they are teaching in the classroom, the next day they are remote. It takes a lot of creativity and hard work to switch back and forth.

    So while the teachers were told to get Covid tested on their holiday, the Minister of Education was no where to be found.

    Where in the world is the Honourable Premier?

    Most countries have advised their citizens to refrain from Non-Essential travel. Instead our leaders took trips and placed the rest of us under curfew and had the Ministry of Health shut business down if they had 1 customer or client test positive.

    Aren’t many of our cases coming in from Travellers? Now our schools are struggling to return to in-class learning? The teachers are right!

  4. Rig says:

    This shows the lack of collaboration between Government and teachers.

    What a mess. No wonder that everyone who can are heading to WA, Saltus, BHS, Somersfield etc.1

    • Joe Bloggs says:

      Lack of collaboration? Really?

      Does your boss “collaborate” with you or tell you what to do? Let’s get real here. This is a power struggle, nothing else.

  5. Sick of it all says:

    Yup, as a person who has ties to Government, I can honestly agree with the intent of the article. The Working class most of the time is despised by the Ministers, civil Servants down to the supervisors. We have waited many years to correct certain infrastructure, procedural and Personnel issues on our job, even going to union. We are all ready to ‘sit Down’ because our voices are not listened to. We don’t have the equipment, electricity, plumbing, proper training, transportation and so forth we had years ago, and no one, I mean NO ONE is listening right up to the Minister.
    So, when I hear this press conference, am I surprised? Huh! I say, YES, I know first hand the CANCER that runs throughout Gov’t. It is shameful. And people want to blame teachers, sanitation workers, bus drivers, Highway workers and all government departments in the Public eye. It is management from the top down that has poisoned the moral and work ethic and workers have become tired of voicing their concerns (Because they care) just to go on deaf ears. We as BERMUDIANS need to stop the GAMES and personal, selfish benefits that unravel this country. Should we all not be working for the GOOD and benefit of the Country? Our neighbors?
    PLP, I am talking to you! Stop , STOP and STOP the personal advantage, and negligence. DO the Peoples Work, this country is imploding. I would like to know, respectfully, where is the Governor in all this? Does England not care? We are a British commonwealth. When we fare bad, it looks bad on them to! We are starting 2022 off on a bad path! Premier, let’s get it together! LEAD the COUNTRY PROPERLY!!!!

  6. Sick of it all says:

    And Frankly, some of the comments made, show emotional babble rather than based on fact and personal warranted experiences. This only causes division among Bermudians and does not route the problem out. The Government needs drastic help, the Premier has left everything to chance, the Governor needs to address this country, the UK should be watching and assisting as well. Or is Bermuda going to just continue to sink to unmanageable depths? The Public Service system under this Government is FAILING! Do these entities not get it? People are tired of the horrid quality of life, that continues to worsen month by month. Now people, keep your comments based on fact.

  7. Joe Bloggs says:

    “The many missteps on the part of the Ministry of Education are far too numerous during a time when effective, proactive leadership is most vital. The most important being their failure to convene the EEMC where all stakeholders could have collaboratively and effectively planned to avoid the situation we are currently facing.”

    No, “all stakeholders” do NOT have a say. If you don’t like your job, quit. You signed a contract, now live by it.