It appears that the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) is set on ending its association with General Secretary Roslyn Smith.
This afternoon Barbados TODAY was reliably informed by sources close to the organisation that the executive body of the largest public sector trade union had opted not to extend Smith’s contract, which expired on March 31.
“Ms Smith was sent a letter informing her that the contract would not be renewed. I can’t say if she received the letter, but we have to now wait and see how she responds,” said one source, who noted that Smith had the option of appealing the decision.
Smith is recovering from an undisclosed illness and has been receiving treatment at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) since last December. She had submitted a request for a leave extension in a letter dated March 15. At the time union president Akanni McDowall said a decision on the matter should be deferred to the union’s incoming executive committee and national council.
However, another source explained to Barbados TODAY that while a new national council is yet to be formed, the executive of the NUPW took the decision not to renew the contract.
“The new council is being formed now but the executive would have made the decision as it pertains to Roslyn [Smith]. The executive made the decision that the contract not be extended,” the source explained.
However, the source also pointed out that a new national council, once in place, could reverse the decision.
“A new national council could decide that they want to bring the General Secretary back. So, there is nothing cast in stone and that would be up to them, but as of March 31, she was not being paid by the NUPW,” the source, said while noting that it might be some time before the NUPW seeks a replacement as there is currently an acting General Secretary and an acting Deputy General Secretary in place.
“We currently have Delcia Burke acting as General Secretary and Wayne Waldron acting as Deputy General Secretary. So, I don’t believe that the union would necessarily be looking for someone right away,” the source explained.
Barbados TODAY made several attempts to reach Smith for comment but was unsuccessful.
In recent months, Smith’s relationship with the NUPW president has been volatile. In the days leading up to NUPW’s elections last April, news broke that Smith and McDowall were heading to court to settle a lawsuit stemming from a memo dated August 28, 2018, in which McDowall made certain statements to the NUPW’s National Council referencing Smith’s use of the union’s credit card.
Smith has accused McDowall of making several “extremely serious, sensational and irrefutably false statements against her”, which had the potential to cause her to lose her job.
According to a release issued by Smith last March, correspondence was sent to McDowall’s lawyers on January 11, 2019, informing him of the planned action. However, at the time, McDowall, who is represented by the legal firm Clarke Gittens Farmer, has claimed that he is protected from any defamation lawsuit.
A letter sent to Smith’s attorney Duana Peterson, a copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY, stated that McDowall was protected under the Trade Unions Act, as president and chairman of the national council.
“In fulfillment of this duty, our client issued the memo to the national council under the letterhead of the NUPW and in his capacity as chairman and president. Therefore, the memo was issued by our client on behalf of NUPW. Consequently, we have advised our client that he is afforded protection from your client’s claim of defamation pursuant to Section 7(1) of the Trade Unions Act CAP 361,” the letter stated. [email protected]