The Bahamas Union of Teachers (BUT) held their 2019 election on Wednesday, June 13, throughout the country and up to press time around 8:00 p.m., it appeared that incumbent president Belinda Wilson and Area Vice President, Quintin Laroda were leading in their respective counts, and would return to their posts.
Yesterday, as educators in Grand Bahama cast their votes this daily reached out to some of the candidates, questioning them on their plans if they are successful at the polls.
Laroda noted that his passion and love for unionism is a continuity approach and he is seeking to get more done if awarded another round.
“I still have a passion and a love for unionism and a passion and love for the Grand Bahama District. We do have some work to continue on and we have been a voice for reason for logic and doing what is right in this organization.
“I just want to continue being that voice, supported by people in the district. I think Grand Bahama is regarded in the organization as the best run district and we have the respect from the entire labour movement.
“Anywhere you go. Grand Bahama is recognized as a place with serious unionists with good teachers and people who stand on principles.”
When asked about persons voicing concerns about his candidacy, he replied, “this is unionism, this is people lives, careers and education is at stake.
“This is not a game of hopscotch, we are not playing marbles, so if someone gets an issue and there is a need for representation, it isn’t about timing, it is about who is best able to provide representation.
“I think that is what members look at and see who the best candidate is, and who has a record of service and is able to serve rather than playing musical chairs.”
Running against Laroda for the Area Vice President position was George Mills, who expressed the union needs a new personality.
“I decided to run, because I felt like I was called to do this and run for the position of Area Vice President.
“I am originally from Grand Bahama, but I began my career in New Providence and served as a Shop Steward in my school. Then I left New Providence and I went to another school and my colleagues at the school recognized the leadership skills in me, so they encouraged me to assist the Shop Steward and when I came back home to Grand Bahama, once again my colleagues recognized the leadership skills in me.
“But it’s time now for me to serve the union at a higher level. We’ve had the same persons in the position for quite some time and in my opinion, I feel like the union has become stagnant and so, I hope to bring a new personality, a new way of doing things,” said Mills.
“I believe in hard work and I believe in going the extra mile and I know the issues the teachers face, because I have experienced those issues myself. I know what it feels like to not be treated the right way by the employer and I feel like we are lacking a lot of times, when it comes to our issues being addressed.”
The voting process from the outside appeared to be running smoothly said Mills, who went in early to cast his vote. He added that he feels good about his candidacy.
“Due to that all of that is happening, I decided to put my name again in the race. Being a born-again believer, my initials W.T. represents that I am willing and trust worthy, I am also a team player, willing to work with anyone who is going to lead the Bahamas Union of Teachers,” said candidate for Executive Member, Wayne Thompson.
“The reason for me running is that I am an avid unionist and I have been a unionist for all of my teaching life, which is about 35 years. I served at the highest level in 2008 to 2013 as an executive member.
“I am an educator and due to being an educator, I want the best for education and I think the experience that I have over the years would lead the union to moving forward, upward and together.”
Thompson believes the union should focus more on educational matters as against personalities. “Over the years, that has not been helping the union. There is so much conflict and personalities, but we need to get back to what it used to be when I joined in the late 1990s and early 2000s, we had itinerary sessions where you would sit down in caucuses and groups and discuss the way forward.
“But we also want to know how as a union with so many educators, how can we make it better for this younger generation that is coming in,” he added.
Thompson added that it appears teaching is becoming a dying art.
“You ask people what they want to do as a career and they would say they want to be a lawyer or a businessman, but you hardly hear people say they want to be a teacher … even as a male … and that is something that I want to see attracted to the profession that I have served 35 years in.”
Martha Edgecombe, a teacher at Eight Mile Rock High School shared, “We are pretty much looking for a change within the union.
“We are for the most part, sick and tired of the infighting that has been going on and it is time for a change. It is time for us to put the people in place who we know will make a valuable input and take the union into new heights, where we can actually stop fighting with each other and fight for a purpose; fight for a cause which is the betterment of teachers and education as a whole,” said Edgecombe.