Black Immigrant Daily News
PSA president Leroy Baptiste. – Photo by Sureash Cholai
The Public Services Association has sought to explain allegations of irregularities during the union’s special general council and conference of delegates meetings which took place on Wednesday.
In a release on Thursday, the association said, during the meeting, pursuant to an order by Justice Frank Seepersad, amendments to the constitution and a budget were made to allow for the auditing of the membership/voter list, publication of notices of elections and conduct of section elections on January 19 and 20.
PSA Industrial Court Section chairman Duaine Hewitt said the association breached the constitution to extend the retirement age beyond 60 to allow the current president Leroy Baptiste to remain in his position.
The PSA said the decision to extend the term of the president was made by the general council in his absence, as he had recused himself from both meetings.
“The general council, with a 73 per cent majority of the votes cast, recommended an amendment to the association’s constitution to allow the conference of delegates, based on the exigencies of service or for good reasons to extend the service of a national officer who is due to attain retirement age of 60 years up to and including the day of the next national election.”
It said, contrary to media reports, people were allowed to contribute to the discussions. Hewitt had said that some members’ contributions were not acknowledged or their mics were muted while they were speaking.
The release said after a lengthy debate on the issue, the substantive issue was put to a vote, the resolution was placed before the general council and accepted with the 73 per cent majority.
“Similarly, the conference of delegates, the supreme governing body of the association, with an 87 per cent majority vote, approved the aforementioned amendments to the constitution and instructed an offer be extended to Leroy Baptiste in the position of president of the association up to, and including the day on which the next ensuing national elections are held, which he subsequently accepted.”
Contacted for clarification, Baptiste said he is due to retire in January 2023, having been appointed as president in 2022 following Watson Duke’s resignation. Baptiste said he was approached by his vice president to remain in the post past his retirement age and agreed to do so as there was work to be done.
Baptiste said there was precedent for the move, as section 14A of the Civil Service Act states that where a permanent secretary or head of the department in the public service reaches the compulsory 60-year age of retirement, his service may, in the exigencies of the service, be extended beyond the retirement age. It says this extension shall not exceed one year but may be renewed annually for up to five years.
He said, therefore, that the resolution by the conference and council did not change the retirement age, but allowed him to work past the retirement age until the next national election, which should take place in 2024.
“It is not an adjustment of the retirement age, that did not happen. I just want to stress that.”
Baptiste said based on the court order by Seepersad, elections for sections/branches have to be carried out by January 21, 2023. There are 131 sections in the PSA, of which only 22 are represented on the council and conference. He said when the PSA attended court, they proposed that elections be held on January 19 and 20.
“Normally elections are at the request of a section and facilitated by the executive, so in order to have these elections take place on those days, we had to go to the council and the conference to tell them we need to get this done, we have to publish notices, we have to be able to mandate that everyone who is interested in coming and serving for the union come on those days and ensure you cast your vote. But all those things are in variance to the constitution so we had to go to before the council and conference to amend the constitution to facilitate the elections.
“I have no reason to not want anyone to be elected. The most the executive can do is call the election, you can’t make people come and do union work if they don’t want to. We will call the election, if we don’t have a quorum, elections can’t take place.”
The release said the conference of delegates also approved the filling of executive vacancies by the appointment of Kellon Wallace as general secretary, Dixie-Ann Williams-James and Marsha Padia as industrial relations officers, and Shinelle Quinlan as trustee.
The PSA assured its members that inaccuracies reported in the media regarding the legal action brought against the association will be clarified in due course. It said it had decided to limit its comments as the matters were sub judice.