The group of public servants protesting for the removal of union president Patrick Yarde says that his continued occupation of office is illegal since the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) rules clearly state that no member shall hold the post for more than two consecutive terms.
Yarde has continually served as GPSU president since 1987.
At a news conference on Friday, Jermaine Hermanstyne, who is part of the group, stated that the group is contending that Yarde has passed his term limit. Hermanstyne cited Rule 11 in the GPSU’s rulebook (seen by this publication) under the heading ‘Officers and Staff’, specifically related to the President, which stated that: “The President shall be elected by the ballot vote of members once every two years in accordance with Rule 30. He shall be eligible for re-election, provided that no member shall hold office of President for more than two consecutive terms.”
According to Hermanstyne, the only way to bypass this rule would be for a motion to be passed at the delegates’ conference, and once passed, registered at the Deeds Registry. Hermanstyne stated that from their investigations, no such registration has taken place, making Yarde’s tenure “illegal.”
“We have done our investigation and based on our investigation, there’s no such document that has been registered. Therefore, if it has not been registered it cannot be incorporated into this rule book…so the whole issue of Patrick Yarde saying that he can run as long as he lives, let me say that it is fib, it is erroneous and we as a team will challenge that,” Hermanstyne stated.
He revealed that the group will definitely be taking the path of legal action against the GPSU President, although he could not offer details.
Members of the group, including workers from the Ministry of Social Protection, Bureau of Statistics, and the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, hosted a news conference on Friday to address what they termed “character assassination,” by GPSU executive members earlier in the week.
Hermanstyne said that rather than dealing with the issues, Yarde has instead resorted to character assassination. He added that this would not, however, push the group to deviate from its objective, which is to “ensure he [Yarde] steps down because he is ineffective and illegal.”
At a press conference last Wednesday, GPSU Vice President Mortimer Livan opined that the protest against Yarde was baseless and was carried out by misguided and perhaps disgruntled members and non-members.
Addressing these accusations about the protest being carried out by non-members, both Hermanstyne and Karen VanSluytman-Corbin, of the Ministry of Social Protection, claimed that in different instances, on attempting to pay their dues, their money was refused by the council and they were informed that it was on Yarde’s instruction. Both individuals believe that it is because they dared to challenge his presidency. VanSluytman-Corbin attempted to run against Yarde in 2005.
“I am of the firm view that whenever you become popular among the membership and Mr Yarde seems to be of the view that you will be able to challenge him for the leadership, you become an enemy of him…,” Hermanstyne said.
VanSluytman-Corbin, who was a member of the union from 1987 to 2006, related that she had been in receipt of a letter that requested she pay a fine of $15,000 to be reinstated as a member as she had been “guilty of serious misconduct.” She, however, pointed out that the nature of the misconduct had not been stated and so she refused to pay the sum as she was not aware on any wrongdoing on her part.
“The only thing I know I did was exercise the democratic right and that right was to contest as a member of the public service union for the position of president, to which Patrick Yarde feels that he has a leash to. He feels that he owns that position, and, over the years, Patrick Yarde has been saying that he’s grooming members to take over the leadership of the union, but as you heard…it is now 30 years, and apparently his process of grooming is a never-ending process, because no one is becoming fit—and I’m using the term fit and proper now—to become the president, other than Patrick Yarde, of the GPSU,” the woman expressed.
In relation to a claim by the GPSU executive that some of the protestors were refusing to pay the correct union dues, Michelle Layne, of the Bureau of Statistics, brought up an issue of a raise in union fees, announced in November 2015, from $1,200 to $1,500, which was objected to by the branch.
She reported that Bureau of Statistics then subsequently requested information on the basis for the raise, as well as enquiring why it had not been tabled and voted on at the biannual delegates meeting or at the union’s general council meeting, rather than at the executive level.
Further, the organisation made a request for the audit report for the five years prior. The report, Layne stated, should be tabled at every biannual conference, although there is no record of any audit being done since 2002.
Hermanstyne related that the union continues to receive the $1,200 fee from the Bureau as they will not pay any additional money until an audit has been done. According to him, Yarde has said that they will be treated as “associate members” rather than “legitimate members.”
As far as Hermanstyne and VanSluytman-Corbin’s alleged ambitions of becoming Chairman of the public service credit union and member of the management committee, as was claimed by Livan, Hermanstyne’s response to this was, “…we want to make it very clear—this is about the GPSU and this has nothing to do with that organisation and we will not confuse the two issues. They are separate and distinctive organisations….”
“Whenever the union has grievances with the government of Guyana, they would call upon the public servants of Guyana to protest against the government, to strike…to take whatever form of industrial action the union would call. It is the public servants they would call upon and in those cases, the public servants are militant, they’re considered very professional, their actions are considered legal, but now what we have observed is that the very public servants who have issues and grievances with the Guyana Public Service Union and Patrick Yarde, we are now protesting against the union and Patrick Yarde and the way he’s managing the union and Patrick Yarde has seen it fit to write to the various government agencies within which we work to call our actions unprofessional, illegal, impartial; the very public servants that he depends upon when he has grievances with the government are the very public servants he is now labelling…,” VanSluytman-Corbin lamented.
According to Hermanstyne, the group has received calls from nearly every branch of the union in support of their protest action, including members outside of the city.