President of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Akanni McDowall is facing possible dismissal from his post.
Union sources told Barbados TODAY that it was unanimously agreed at a special meeting of the union’s national council on Thursday to give the president seven calendar days, starting today, to answer four issues relating to the NUPW’s finances or face disciplinary action, including possible dismissal.
This follows a recent investigation by a sub-committee, which was mandated to carry out an internal financial review.
Sources explained that should McDowall fail to respond within the next week, the national council was prepared to ask the general membership to discipline him.
Barbados TODAY understands that the general membership, which had elected the president in the first place, has the power to suspend or dismiss any member for neglect, dishonesty, incompetence or refusal to carry out a decision of the executive.
McDowall was re-elected as the president of the NUPW for a second two-year term back in April 2017 having successfully survived previous no confidence votes.
However, in recent months his leadership has been severely tested with charges being made both inside and outside of the union that he had sold out the workers, following approval of a five per cent pay deal with the Mia Mottley-led Government after waging an acrimonious battle with the previous Freundel Stuart-led administration for a 23 per cent pay hike.
However, McDowall has been adamant that the former Government was not interested in compromise even in the face of damaging public suggestions made by his predecessor Walter Maloney that the rejection by the membership of the NUPW of a proposal by Government in 2013 for a five per cent cut in public servants’ salaries led to the retrenchment of 3,000 civil servants and placed up to 6,000 jobs at risk – charges which McDowall has rejected.
However, sources say some executives are currently at their tether with McDowall, who reportedly refused to attend Thursday’s council meeting as well as the previous one, choosing instead to have an attorney write to the union explaining his absence.
Initially, McDowall could not be reached for comment on the matter, but his attorney-at-law Fabian Walthrus confirmed to Barbados TODAY that he had been engaged by the president to carry out certain instructions and he did.
In his letter, dated July 11, 2018 and addressed to NUPW General Secretary Roslyn Smith, Walthrus pointed out that he was acting on behalf of McDowall.
“I am asked to advise on an issue relating to the right of the General Secretary to summons a special meeting,” he wrote.
The letter also noted that the General Secretary had called the special council meeting on or about July 3, 2018, but was later advised verbally and in writing by the acting president Fabian Jones that her actions were in breach of the customary protocols for summoning such meetings.
The attorney also accused Smith of breaching the NUPW’s Rules and Standing Orders regarding the same.
“I am therefore instructed that, contrary to the acting president’s instructions not to do so, you proceeded to convene the said meeting on the appointed date,” the letter stated.
“Consequently, you have acted ultra vires of the powers conferred upon you under rules 8(a)(ii) and/or 12 of the said rules,” it added.
“I am therefore instructed that, for your future guidance and for the good governance of the NUPW as per its rules and standing orders, that only the president or national council where your position is merely ex officio, has the right to summon a special meeting at any time,” the correspondence added.
The attorney therefore informed the NUPW that his client had nothing to answer.
“Therefore the said meeting and/or any decision and/or directive and/or resolution emanating therefrom is null and void and or no effect,” he stressed.
In a subsequent response to Barbados TODAY this morning, McDowall said: “I’m not going to comment on any unresolved matters of the union. I am aware that while I was out of the island an attempt was made to convene a meeting which, if held, was in breach of the rules of the union.
“And since that meeting has been cancelled, I have sought legal advice on the contents of the letter, and have been advised by my attorneys not to respond to any allegations contained in the letter.
“However, the authors of that letter and anyone who publishes the contents of that letter will hear from my attorneys-at-law in due course,” he added.
When contacted, the union’s general secretary said she could not address the matter publicly at this stage.