-members protest exclusion from elections
The 20th biennial conference of the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers’ Union (AT&GW) yesterday culminated after more than ten years of legal wrangling between Union President Godfrey Whyte and several past members who purported to function as the Interim Management Committee (IMC).
The court had directed the parties in the matter to fix a date for the elections at the biennial conference by May 2014.
On May 30, 2004 the union held its 20th biennial delegates conference but this had to be adjourned after several of the workers refused to cease their efforts to ignore the agenda.
Subsequently, Whyte proceeded to institute legal proceedings and made applications for several injunctions restraining the workers from holding themselves out to be the Interim Management Committee.
In the interim, the workers attempted to reconvene the conference but on November 15, 2004 Justice Winston Patterson issued an interim injunction restraining the workers from convening the conference.
Further, in court documents seen by this newspaper following contempt of court proceedings instituted by Whyte, Justice Nareshwar Harnanan in a 2013 ruling said that “…the respondents (the IMC) having expressed their contriteness in respect of breaches of the order of court dated the 14th of March, 2011. It is hereby ordered and directed that the plaintiff and all members of the executive council of the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union for the year 2004”, who are entitled be granted access to the union’s Lot 46 Urquhart Street premises.
“…and it is further ordered and directed by consent that there be a meeting of the Special Executive Council to be held in January 2014, for the purpose of fixing a date for elections as determined by the Special Executive Council no later than May 2014,” the ruling said.
Meanwhile, over twenty members of the union yesterday turned up at the union’s office and said that they had been barred by two police officers from entering the elections but according to Whyte, he is guided by the constitution and orders.
“We are here and at the door there are two officers there, so we can’t get into the building or at the conference. They have a list at the door that only persons that are on the 2004 list can go into the conference,” Marilyn Chee-a-Tow told Stabroek News. Chee-a-Tow was one of those listed in the order of Justice Harnanan of June, 2013 as expressing contrition over the breaches of a court order granted by Justice Brassington Reynolds in 2011 in relation to union matters.
Chee-a-Tow explained that their main contention had to do with the officers being present. “This is the workers’ building. Why is it that two police are guarding the door and calling names from the 2004 list…and I am not allowed to go into the buildings but my name is on his list,” she stated.
Whyte however said that “they must not question that. Police is here to make sure that everything goes smoothly, that was the purpose of the police.”
She added, “This list is a 2004 delegate list. It is a fraudulent list … Also, lots of people on that list have migrated and also passed away.”
“Now if you are using the 2004 list that means he is excluding the Guyana Water Inc. workers because they only came on stream in 2009,” the general secretary said.
However Whyte explained that “there is no confusion. It is not a worker’s conference, it is a delegate’s conference. This new list has 47 persons, the old list had 54 persons. Four of the seven workers were part of the Interim Management Committee which was restrained by the court from acting, including Chee-a-Tow. The others are persons who are deceased”.
Others of the group gathered in the compound added that Whyte had spoken to them earlier in the day. “He [Whyte]came and said that only persons on the 2004 list are allowed to come and do the elections but there are people up there in the building who weren’t even existing in 2004. They were nowhere around in 2004 and not on the list,” one worker said.
Another worker questioned why the elections could not be observed by them. “Why can’t we observe the electoral process? We are paying our money. If we can’t take part we should be able to observe what is going on,” the worker said.
Meanwhile, according to one worker, “This is a blue print of what is going on at City Hall.”
Chee-a-Tow also informed that among themselves, the workers offered new nominations for the different entities represented by the union. “The nominations (were) sent to the president general and as such we were looking forward to seeing delegates’ names from those lists…only to come this morning to find that he [Whyte] was using the 2004 list which does not have the people here.”
Whyte also told this newspaper that the union was able to accomplish several things on their agenda. In the elections, he was returned as President, Don Johnson as Assistant President General, Jocelyn Rutherford as Senior Vice President and John Wilburg as Junior Vice President. Four motions were also unanimously passed.
The union currently represents workers from both the public and private sectors. Among its members are employees from the Guyana Water Inc., National Insurance Scheme and the Maritime Administration Department.