SEVERAL members of the staff of the National Workers’ Union (NWU) are demanding a meeting with its general secretary, Granville Valentine, to discuss what they claim to be “serious financial irregularities” at the union.
“We have not been able to get a meeting with him in seven months, despite repeated requests,” veteran trade unionist and Deputy Island Supervisor Owen Saunderson told the Jamaica Observer.
Saunderson, a former deputy mayor of the Portmore municipality, said Valentine has refused to discuss the issues.
“There are serious financial irregularities at the union, and whenever a meeting is held questions will be asked and he will have to give answers,” he added.
When the Observer spoke to Valentine, he insisted that the issue was not something that he wished to discuss publicly.
“I heard there is a letter which is signed by quite a few people. I haven’t seen it, but I understand that it is full of flaws,” Valentine said.
The letter, a copy of which was sent to the Observer, stated that there were urgent matters affecting the staff of the union, which is housed at East Street, Kingston.
One the main issues raised was the late payment of salaries, and part-payments up to consecutive four months despite what the letter said was a “$2-million injection from the People’s National Party (PNP) Secretariat in February 2016”.
Among other issues listed were:
(1) Breaches of the union’s constitution, which requires that the managing committee meets at least once per month, and the need to meet to fill the vacancy created by the death of the financial secretary;
(2) The absence of an assistant general secretary;
(3) The collapse of the staff health insurance scheme, whilst deductions are still being made from employees’ salaries;
(4) Loans for homes, motor vehicles and other items affected being endangered by the failure to pay over third-party deductions, which has also resulted in legal action being taken against some staffers.
Valentine admitted there is a cash-flow problem at the union, which has been affecting operations.
“The matter is being discussed. We have a cash-flow problem, and if you have that problem there are going to be concerns. But we are treating with it,” he said.
The letter was also signed by Vice-President Arthur Grant, Deputy Island Supervisor Allan Hunter, Assistant Island Supervisor Leonard Sewell, and Office Manager Viviene Reynolds.
Since taking over as general secretary of the union in 2012, Valentine has removed two of its most senior leaders — former president and island supervisor Vincent Morrison, and former PNP senator and general secretary of its affiliate, the Union of Clerical, Administrative and Supervisory Employees (UCASE), Navel Clarke — from the executive.
A number of other senior officers have also resigned since then. Morrison, who said that he was blocked from entering the East Street office, later pulled the white collar UCASE from the union with the NWU and has been operating it as a separate entity for the past two years.
The problems at the NWU have led to the union not having a member appointed to the Senate by the PNP in the current Parliament, as was the practice in the past.
The NWU has been an affiliate of the PNP since it was formed in April 1952, following the party’s split with Trade Union Congress (TUC) and factional elements within the party. It is also a founding member of the Jamaica Confederation of Trade Unions.