With less than two weeks until the Guyana Public Service Union (GPSU) elections, the Chairman of its Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) branch, Gregory Gaspar has moved to the High Court to have the Executive Council suspended until financial records can be presented.
The application was filed on Tuesday by attorneys Nigel Hughes and Stephen Roberts and were to be served to the respondents, which included GPSU President Patrick Yarde, on Thursday.
The matter is scheduled for a hearing on May 10 before Justice Priya Sewnarine-Beharry, but it was indicated that there will be attempts to bring the hearing forward.
Yarde; First Vice President Mortimer Livan; Second Vice President Dawn Gardener; Third Vice President Carmelita Laulys; Deputy General Secretary Kempton Alexander; Principal Assistant Secretary Samantha Fedee; Assistant Education Officer Vera Naughton; Organising Secretary Sonny Singh; Assistant Organising Secretary Andrea Giles; Economic, Research and Project Officer Charles Baker; Assistant Economic, Research and Project Officer Trevor Daly; Assistant Treasurer Thomas Nestor; and General Members Janice Bowen, Constance Perry, Monica Walters, Ram Mangru, Maurice Butters and Marcell Percival are all named as respondents in the lawsuit.
During a press briefing held on Thursday, it was stated that the grounds of the suit are that evidence exists that the council is in violation of union rules. Gaspar stated that it is hoped that by taking this route, the dormant branches of the GPSU can be resuscitated and the union’s records can be brought up to date.
The action asks the court to suspend and/or remove the Executive Council until the Treasurer’s reports and/or the Auditor General’s reports for 2004 to 2017 are prepared and tabled at this April’s Biennial Delegates’ Conference. The Conference, according to GPSU’s rule book, signifies the “Supreme Authority of the Union,” and it is there that the body elected in this month’s elections will be installed. The elections are slated for April 24.
Gaspar’s action also calls for the appointment of an Interim Management Committee to function in the absence of the Council. That committee, it was stated, should be involved in preparing and presenting the Treasurer’s report for the period mentioned above, to be tabled at the Biennial Delegates Conference of the GPSU.
Jermaine Hermanstyne, one of the organisers of the group against GPSU’s council, said that should the order be granted, the instituted committee will work on having the relevant documents in order before an election is organised. The application also seeks a declaration that those served have jointly and severely breached the union rules, specifically rules 4, 5, 11 (k) and 13. These rules, as seen by Stabroek News, relate to authority lying at the highest level in the Biennial Delegates’ Conference, and “subject to that authority the union shall be governed by a General Council, and between meetings of the General Council by the Executive Council”; that there should be a 50% representation of delegates in order for a quorum to be formed; that the Treasurer is expected to submit yearly financial statements at the Biennial Delegates’ Conference and that the books and accounts of the union should be made accessible to the Auditor General for inspection before the first day of May in each year.
It also seeks a declaration that the defendants have failed to properly manage the union in accordance with its rules, as well as an order for damages to be paid in excess of $100,000 for breach of those rules, and any other order the court seems fit and costs.
Hermanstyne said that currently the group is focusing on “what they can do for members,” while reiterating that they will be meeting with members throughout the country to hear their grievances.
Among the issues he said that they have encountered so far are, a need for an increase in the uniform allowances for nurses, an improvement of the state of the building in which employees of the Guyana Revenue Authority are housed and increased allowances for “traditional public servants.”
He stated that so far the group has met with nurses in New Amsterdam, representatives at the Linden Hospital Complex, staff of the Ministry of Finance, Bureau of Statistics, Ministry of Housing, Ministry of Social Protection, Ministry of Labour, the Georgetown Public Hospital and the GGMC.
Late last month, protestors had begun picketing for Yarde’s removal. It was stated that his extended tenure in office was unlawful and claims were made that the Council was in breach of union rules.
Soon after, the GPSU held a press conference during which the members responded by saying they will continue to back Yarde as President should he be re-elected at the upcoming elections.
In a letter to Stabroek News, published on April 1, Livan stated that the union had “already dared the opportunists to take the matter to court” and emphasised that nothing would hinder the elections process.
“This masquerade is an insult to the intelligence of our members, a blatant disrespect of the rules of the union and the contributions and sacrifices made by Mr Yarde and other members of the Executive Council, and will be resented and rejected. We see this as an attempt to assassinate the character of Mr Yarde and to weaken the effectiveness and undermine representation, something that is currently being frustrated by the government,” Livan stated.He said that the sole intent of the protest was to embarrass the Union and the peddling of misleading statements which were eventually carried by the media. Livan added that the ‘so-called’ protest was carried out by three groups of people; a few misguided, and perhaps disgruntled members, those who refuse to pay the correct union dues, in accordance with the union, and non-members.