The embattled head of the island’s main public sector trade union has given the decision-making National Council he chairs an ultimatum to withdraw a debt claim against him.
The president of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Akanni McDowall had given the council until last Thursday to confirm in writing that it was withdrawing the claim for money owned for use of a union credit card and cell phone. McDowall has retained attorney Ramon O. Alleyne QC, from the law firm Clarke, Gittens and Farmer, to represent him in the matter.
But the national council met recently to discuss the letter sent by the law firm and decided to stick to its guns, setting the body on a collision course with its leader, Barbados TODAY has learned.
In a memorandum dated August 30, the council informed McDowall of the decision to deduct $600 per month from his stipend in order to settle a debt owed through the use of the NUPW’s credit card and cell phone.
The council had said that following an investigation by a committee and the General Treasurer, Asokore Beckles, it found that McDowall was indebted to the union to the tune of $5,371.97.
But in a letter to General Secretary Roslyn Smith McDowall’s lawyer said if there was no response on or before September 27 confirming withdrawal of the memo, his client would exercise his right to appeal the council’s decision, alleging that it was taken in breach of the NUPW’s Rules and Standing Orders.
“We reserve the right to expand the grounds of appeal on notice to the General Conference as required. We trust that should our client be forced to appeal, his stipend would remain unaffected by the purported decision until the determination of such appeal,” Alleyne wrote.
The lawyer also advised the union president that the council’s decision amounted to a disciplinary action not in accordance with union rules.
The lawyer also pointed out to the national council that its decision to “sanction” their client was irregularly made at a meeting which had already been adjourned by him as chairman.
Through his attorney, McDowall is insisting that when the decision was taken at that meeting, the issue of the credit card and cell phone had already been settled.
“As such, we have advised our client that the said sanction is invalid,” the correspondence read, adding that “in the circumstances, we write seeking written confirmation that the said memorandum of August 30, 2018 will be withdrawn,” said the letter.
In an immediate response to the correspondence dated September 26, 2018, the NUPW’s main decision-making arm told the attorney that it had no intention of withdrawing the memo and that it would continue to deduct the $600 per month from McDowall’s stipend.
Senior union officials are contending that it was not proper or natural justice for McDowall to have been chairing a meeting in which the case being adjudicated involved him.
Up to this afternoon, the NUPW said it had not seen any counter to its response from the lawyer’s initial letter.
But the union’s national council is expected to have a regular meeting on Thursday where their president’s future is likely to be an agenda item.