The gloves are well and truly off at Dalkeith Road, as a huge fissure between the top brass of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) gets even wider.
There was no smoothing over the cracks as the animosity between NUPW President Akanni McDowall and General Secretary Roslyn Smith was further exposed today ahead of a meeting called by the union president with the national council.
There were heated exchanges in the parking lot, following which several members refused to enter the meeting room for the 3 p.m. talks.
Among those boycotting the meeting were General Treasurer Asokorie Beckles and Smith, who last week openly contradicted a report on talks with the International Monetary Fund given to Barbados TODAY by McDowall, who has been ordered by the union to appear before the national council next week to answer questions about the NUPW’s finances.
Smith questioned the legitimacy of today’s meeting, while making it clear she would only recognize next week’s face-off between the national council and the union president.
“That was not a meeting. They did not have 15 persons. They may have had 15 persons in the yard, but 15 persons did not go into that meeting. So there was no meeting.
“Next week, if Mr McDowall chooses to turn up, he would deal with what is on that agenda,” said Smith, who refused to confirm whether a list of charges had officially been sent to McDowall.
Following the meeting, which ended at 5:30 p.m., McDowall refused to update the media on what went on behind the closed doors, only stating he would reserve comment until next week’s meeting.
However, he was adamant that today’s gathering was legitimate, claiming that more than the 15 members needed for a quorum were present.
“I hope you all saw how many people came out. I had more than 25 persons in attendance,” said McDowall, who was officially summoned on Monday to face the union’s management, according to a source familiar with the development.
“We sent the letter summoning him to the meeting next week and it was signed for yesterday. So as far as I am concerned he was served and it would be up to him now,” the source said.
Barbados TODAY reported last week that McDowall was facing possible dismissal from his post after it was unanimously agreed at a special meeting of the union’s national council last Thursday to give the president seven calendar days, starting on July 13, to answer four issues relating to the NUPW’s finances or face disciplinary action, including possible dismissal.
This followed a recent investigation by a sub-committee, which was mandated to carry out an internal financial review.
McDowall’s attorney Fabian Walthrus subsequently wrote to Smith on July 11, charging that she 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.
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 NUPW president for a second two-year term back in April 2017, having successfully survived previous no confidence votes.