Questions surrounding what will become of the Salvation Army’s Family Services programme that feeds thousands of Bermudians in need annually, remain unanswered several weeks after the Army made the programme’s manager redundant.

Former Family Services Manager Lynn Gordon, has headed up the Army’s Family Services programme for 19 years; which includes the Army’s Food Bank, Thrift Shop and a truck driver, in addition to the annual Santa Anonymous  Christmas programme.

The move came shortly after the Salvation Army’s managers decided they wanted to join their fellow employees, who voted to become unionised under the Bermuda Public Services Association (BPSU). 

Their Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed in January 2017.

Divisional Commander Frank Pittman, Salvation Army Bermuda

The application by the Army’s managers is currently before the Government Labour Relations Department.The application was submitted on February 9, 2018, for certification.

Ms Gordon, was called into a meeting on March 20, by the local Divisional Commander Frank Pittman and the Army’s Executive Director, Beverly Daniels. They were joined by another office manager and Salvation Army Captain Elizabeth Knights.

Major Pittman heads up the Army’s current administration with Ms Daniels, a former civil servant with the Ministry of Education now in her 70s, who was brought out of retirement to work for the Christian-based charity.

Ms Gordon was told that due to the organizational review held back in March 2017, it had been decided that the Army “had too much staff” and that the Family Services budget was “over-budget” by approximately $60,000.

Ms Gordon told Bermuda Real that all managers were told by the organisational review team that they would have the results in by May 2017.

Ultimately, the results of the review were never shared with the Army’s managers.

“Managers often complained about not receiving regular budget reports as per our accreditation review,” said Ms Gordon.

“If my budget was an issue, we never had a sit down to formally discuss it and the auditor from Territorial Headquarters (THQ) was at the main office a week prior to the redundancy; and we never sat down to discuss the budget, as we usually do with all managers.”

After serving the needs of Bermuda’s homeless, drug addicted and less fortunate for nearly two decades, she expressed concern that the decision to make the job redundant was made with no firm plans in place.

Berverly Daniels, Executive Director, Salvation Army Bermuda

This after the Salvation Army’s executive single-handedly introduced its non-managerial staff to unionisation after operating in Bermuda for more than a century.

In an article published two years ago, Major Pittman warned that jobs could be at stake due to a shortfall in funding.

The article noted Government cutbacks in funding and the downturn in charitable donations. In 2015, 697 donors contributed some $411,089, which fell short of the Army’s $550,000 goal. Total donations also fell short in 2014.

The Salvation Army needed more than $200,000 to balance its budget for 2016, due to the 25 percent shortfall.

Two years later, Ms Gordon’s employment was terminated, and that the position which caters to the group of people the Army was founded to help daily – Bermuda’s homeless and destitute residents – was made redundant.

Based the Employment Act, Ms Gordon questioned the fact that no redundancy pay cheque was ready to sign off on when she was terminated.

To date, there has been no official word on what’s to become of the Family Services Programme that feeds thousands of Bermudians annually; on a monthly basis, by providing clients with free groceries.

Bermuda Real understands that some employees were told that the programme will be moved to the Salvation Army’s North Street Citadel, and that clients in need of groceries may be served by appointment only.

Others questioned why the Army would move it to the Citadel, which also has a nursery school in the building.

The King Street facility also provides food and clothing to the homeless, including persons afflicted by drug addiction.

The North Street Citadel is also directly across from a public school.

Ms Gordon said it would appear that the Salvation Army took a position on a major arm of the services their organization provides, without giving much thought to the ultimate outcome or the unintended consequences.

And she anticipates a negative outcome come December 2018.

In 2016, Major Pittman stated that the Army likes to “focus on the impact we make on people’s lives rather than cost”.

“The reality is that our social programmes are costly to operate. Our services offer help, hope and dignity to struggling families in Bermuda throughout the year.”

In the lead up the Army’s 2016-17 budget, he said: “We have to consider cutbacks in services and possibly lose some staff, which is the last thing we want to do.

“It’s a great cause for concern for the organisation. We have brothers and sisters in Bermuda who are struggling, and we should remember to care for them.”

Ms Gordon also noted that to date, the Army’s managers have yet to receive a copy of the review by THQ.  termination.

“I was told by Ms Daniels that Major Pittman said it was private, and that he didn’t have to share the final review,” she said.

“We were told that we would have the results by the people who did it. It’s an issue because we only have three staff, one full-time manager [me], one part-time food bank worker, and a part-time truck driver. It’s always been that way.”

At one point in time, prior to this administration she said: “We got budget reports once a month, so we could track it. But since Major Pittman’s been here we don’t get them.”

When told that her job had been made redundant, effective immediately, she said she was informed that they would be paying her 26 weeks pay for her 19 years of service.

“I don’t feel that’s right,” she said.  “They told me that if I want I could take legal action I can and that it would be my own expense.

“I was told that the other manager present would come down to collect my keys; which she did, and he [Major Pittman] told me to leave to the premises.

Asked why her former colleagues decided to join a union, she said: “This administration ushered the employees into being unionised by being delinquent in their duties as Army officers, as the Divisional Commander and the Executive Director.

“There have been instances of referring to their staff as the liars, thieves and the troublemakers – their lack of transparency and more importantly; as a so-called Christian-based organisation, they are not putting principles before personalities.

“THQ has been notified in writing regarding the disgruntled staff and their needs were never met from the top down.

“How do you get rid of a Manager, that other than the kettles at Christmas with the Red Shield Appeal, runs the only department that raises money for Christmas?

“We get thousands of dollars through Family Services – not the Red Shield Appeal or any funds raised by the Divisional Commander.

“This is a Christian organization where you had staff members who lost parents and one member who lost a parent who was told that they had to write in in order to leave the island to go bury their parent.

“The DC never offered condolences to any of those staff members who have served for many years collectively have nearly three decades of service.

“Every worker has complained about Berverly Daniels bullying staff right up the union ballot – the name calling and derogatory remarks.

“It may be time for the Salvation Army to take a real hard look at restructuring. The church in St George’s has parishioners who are ageing – it may be time for that church to be closed.

“Why would you pull a major programme that serves the people of Bermuda – the people in need?

“When you have issues that never get dealt with on the job where do you go? The bullying was never addressed – this woman has been made to believe that she has free reign.

“The workers feel like they have no say, and the managers feel the same way. The first group to get unionised did it because there was no improvement. And with the continued bullying, the managers decided that they wanted to get unionised as well.”

Bermuda Real fielded a number of questions to the Army’s Executive prior to publication of this report including:

  • What’s the plan moving forward for the programmes run by Family Services, most notably the Christmas Programme, and the monthly grocery programme?
  • What’s the plan for the food distribution outlet downstairs at the King Street facility – will it be moved to North Street, and will clients will have to collect groceries by appointment – not to mention homeless and drug addicted addicts showing up in a school zone, which also includes a nursery in the Army’s building?
  • Major Pittman was quoted in an article published two years ago, that jobs at the Salvation Army could be under threat due to a shortfall in funding.  It would be fair to say that the Army’s shortfalls coincided with your arrival and leadership – how much of a role do you accept in the said lack of funding through lack of fundraising on your part?
  • What exactly is the plan moving forward with regard to Family Services which provides groceries to thousands of Bermudians annually?

There was no response.

The Salvation Army was founded in 1865 by Minister William Booth in London, to help the city’s homeless and destitute residents. Since then it has expanded to 127

“The organization bestows quasi-military ranks upon its members, who number about two million, while its remit in helping others remains broad, emcompassing everything
from education to disaster relief and medical services.”

For more than a century, The Salvation Army in Bermuda has offered programmes including food banks, feeding initiatives, a residential addiction service, emergency
housing and counselling.