A potential challenge to the leadership of Akanni McDowall as president of the island’s largest public sector union has been laid to rest, with McDowall remaining firmly in charge of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW).
The union boss was facing a no confidence motion over what some members said were his disrespect for staff, including General Secretary Roslyn Smith, and his leadership style.
However, McDowall told Barbados TODAY this afternoon that he was informed by Smith that the motion had failed to attract the required number of signatures needed to see it through.
“It was invalid because it did not have enough signatures. It requires 50 signatures and many of the signatures could not be validated, some of them might not have been members, some of them might not have been financial, so it did not get the signatures required to bring a no confidence motion,” McDowall explained.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY last week, McDowall accused some members of the union of trying to sully his name and reputation, and hinted that the motion was politically motivated.
“There is some perceived notion that I am affiliated to some political party,” he said at the time, a reference to suggestions that he was a disciple of the Opposition Barbados Labour Party.
Yesterday, he revealed that the motion was piloted by Derek Alleyne, a member of the Democratic Labour Party (DLP) who has contested elections for the DLP and has served as campaign manager for the party. Alleyne is currently Director of the Urban Development Commission.
McDowall admitted that it was possible that he would face a second motion, but insisted that the first one was based on “a false premise”.
He made reference to reports that he had attempted to overturn a decision of the National Council, the NUPW’s highest decision-making body, regarding the union’s Medicare group programme with the Insurance Corporation of Barbados (ICBL), which expires at the end of this month and will not be renewed.
The Council had agreed that Sagicor would provide cover from June 1, with Capita Insurance acting as the broker for the policy, which covers 1,878 members. McDowall was reported to have sought to advise Sagicor by letter that it could not deal with Capita Insurance.
In his interview with Barbados TODAY this afternoon, the union president suggested he had not written the letter to the insurance company.
“It [the no confidence motion] is not dead. You could file a no confidence motion anytime but the premise of the no confidence motion too as I was informed, is not really anything that I could have done. It was based on a false premise.
“They are saying that I would have sent a letter to Sagicor really, disagreeing with what Council decided but when that Council meeting was held I was in Cuba, and for me to send that letter I would have had to send it from Cuba and if you know Cuba well, Cuba really doesn’t have good Wi-Fi, so the premise was false,” he said.
He also charged that some of those who signed the petition were not properly briefed on what they were attaching their signatures to, while some of those who responded to the union’s summons for a meeting at the Dalkeith headquarters also admitted to signing the document “but it was not to remove me. But when I looked at the content of the document it was indeed to remove me, so they have to make sure that they sign the right thing”.
McDowall also admitted that there were those who were unhappy with his leadership, but he promised to meet with them in an effort to find out the reasons for their unhappiness.
“I would want to meet with them and I humbly suggest that they come to me as soon as possible because I would like to know what I am doing wrong that I can correct.”
In the meantime the young trade unionist said he was focused on ensuring that he represented workers to the best of his ability.