Suspended president of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Akanni McDowall has won round one of his bid for re-election.
The High Court on Wednesday night granted the embattled leader an injunction to put Thursday’s elections on hold pending further order.
Following lengthy oral arguments for most of the day, the Court reserved its decision.
The parties were then asked to return to court at 8:30 p.m. at which time Justice Cecil McCarthy ordered, among other things, that the NUPW is restrained from holding its general elections and all associated formalities until further order.
Following the submission of further affidavit evidence and written submissions, the court will deliver its decision next week Thursday on the substantive matter of McDowall’s suspension.
In immediate reaction following the court proceedings, McDowall said: “Hopefully this represents a closer step for the members to vote for the representation that they want.”
The suspended president’s legal team is claiming that their client was tried “in secret”, suspended and some two weeks later told of the charges that led to his suspension.
Consequently, he was barred from seeking re-election as president of the union and from even participating in the election, due in a matter of hours.
Attorneys for McDowall Kevin Boyce and Omari Drakes of the Clarke Gittens Farmer law firm made submissions on his behalf. At the crux of their submissions was that there was a serious issue to be tried (the breach of the rules and laws of natural justice). They suggested that the balance of justice weighs heavily in favour of the suspended union leader.
The counsel argued that if the injunction is not granted McDowall would lose the right to take part in the elections. On the other hand, an injunction would delay the election also giving the other candidates an additional period to canvas.
In response, attorney for the union Larry Smith Q.C., appearing in association with Jeriah Rock sought to have the application struck out on the basis that the NUPW was not a body in law against whom a claim could be brought.
He submitted that there was no cause of action outlined in the Notice of Application that could be brought against the union.
Smith argued that the NUPW was permitted to suspend McDowall in circumstances akin to an employer suspending an employee with pay. But McDowall’s attorneys highlighted to the court that unions had no common law right to sanction members and that they must comply with their rules. They contended that the union’s counsel was incorrect in fact and law given that the rule used to suspend McDowall was disciplinary in nature and was expressly stated to be a sanction on a finding of guilt.
All parties to the case will now have to await the outcome of next Thursday’s decision to see whether McDowall’s suspension stands or if he will have the opportunity to contest the election.
At the weekend, the union’s leadership rejected a Friday ultimatum issued by McDowall to put the elections on pause and rescind the decision to suspend him so he could run for re-election.
In what had been viewed as a backup plan in the event that his court action for an injunction failed, McDowall also authored a petition that went into circulation on Monday asking public servants to support his presidency and his participation in the poll.
Up to Tuesday, the controversial unionist had garnered 175 signatures from among the 6 700-strong public sector bargaining body.
McDowall has also asked the court to grant him costs in the matter.
Efforts to reach NUPW acting General Secretary Wayne Walrond were unsuccessful.