As thousands of public servants prepare to vote in National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) elections in two days’ time, a new petition has emerged that supports the suspended union president contesting the post again.
The petition, authored by embattled president Akanni McDowall, had, up to the time of publication, been signed by 175 members of the near 7 000-strong union, who say they support him as president and that he should be allowed to participate in the poll on Thursday.
Following a failed resolution to create the new position of Secretary General for McDowall almost a month ago, the latest attempt to ensure he remains in the leadership race coincides with court action this week, seeking his reinstatement as a member and president.
Barbados TODAY has learned that McDowall, whose lawyers filed the application in the High Court on Monday, wants the judge to grant an injunction rescinding the decision of the union to suspend him and order that he be permitted to enter the presidential battle and run a minimum two-week re-election campaign.
Hearing of that application is set for Wednesday morning in the High Court.
The petition is being viewed as a backup in case the court injunction fails.
Last week, McDowall’s team of lawyers gave the union’s leadership 48 hours – which expired last Friday – to respond favourably to their client’s four demands to overturn its action.
However, the NUPW was adamant it was not backing down, while insisting that the elections would go ahead as scheduled.
The demands, which are contained in a legal document dated July 6, under the letterhead of law firm Clarke, Gittens and Farmer, not only questioned the NUPW’s decision to suspend McDowall in accordance with Rule 17 (a) of the union’s Rules and Standing Orders, but said it affected his bid to contest the presidency in the upcoming election.
The lawyers also argued that the NUPW breached their own rules and the laws of natural justice because McDowall was never given any, much less a proper opportunity to be heard by the National Council or a meeting of the charges brought against him.
In citing the rule, the law firm said there must be a vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the council that is convened to “suspend, censor or otherwise discipline or expel any member of the union who, in the opinion of the National Council, has been guilty of conduct calculated to bring the union into disrepute or has injured, worked against or acted contrary to the interest of the union”.
It further stipulates that “such member be afforded proper opportunity of being heard by the National Council or of meeting charges brought against him and subject to appeal to the General Conference as provided for in Rule 10 (g) of these rules”.
As a result, “the decision is null and void”, the lawyers argued, as they also served notice they would seek redress.
The law firm had also demanded that the NUPW immediately issue a memorandum withdrawing McDowall’s suspension and that this action be communicated to him and all other persons and entities that had been advised of the “purported suspension”.
The attorneys also demanded that the union compensate McDowall for the costs he incurred as a result of its actions.
On Tuesday, the National Council – the second highest decision-making organ within the union – brought six charges against the embattled president and Natalie Murray, the member who brought the defeated resolution to create the Secretary General post.
Since then, Acting General Secretary Wayne Walrond told a National Council meeting he had accepted the advice of their lawyers to drop four of the accusations against McDowall and two against Murray.
But at the weekend, Walrond was reported in another section of the media as denying that the charges were dropped.
Commenting on the latest petition, McDowall said he was “truly” humbled by the support from the members.
“From the beginning, for me, it has always been about the membership and ensuring the members receive good representation. As long as they want me to be here I will stand and fight alongside them.
“The membership should have an opportunity to choose who they want, ” he said.
Walrond could not be reached for comment late on Tuesday evening.