Several trade union officials in Grenada are watching closely next week’s election to fill a number of executive posts within the Public Workers Union (PWU).
According to well-placed sources, behind the scene moves are being made by elements associated with the so-called “Project Grenada” grouping to try and influence the outcome of the voting.
One official who spoke on condition that she was not identified said that the outcome can have some bearings on elections to be held within the next few months for the prestigious post of President of the Grenada Trade Union Council (GTUC).
She said that one of the main architects of “Project Grenada”, Senator Chester Humphrey is backing Andre Lewis, a member of his Technical and Allied Workers Union (TAWU) to replace outgoing President, Madonna Harford at the helm of the island’s trade union umbrella body.
Harford has signalled her intention not to seek re-election in order to spend more time her husband who is sick at home.
The main players in “Project Grenada” have formed a strategic political alliance with the ruling New National Party (NNP) of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell.
The official spoke of the promoters of “Project Grenada” trying to get some of their allies elected onto the PWU Executive in order to muster votes to influence the voting pattern during the TUC election.
She told THE NEW TODAY newspaper that TAWU would be going into the TUC election with the most voting delegates based on the kind of system of Proportional Representation that exist within the umbrella body.
She said that PWU has the second largest block of votes followed by the Grenada Union of Teachers (GUT).
According to the official, it seems very unlikely at this stage that a coming together of voting delegates between PWU and Teachers might be able to keep out a candidate being supported by TAWU and Sen. Humphrey.
The recently appointed President-General of GUT, Lyden Lewis was being tooted about as a possible replacement for Harford.
The source dropped hints that all is not well within the PWU in light of reports circulating in some quarters that the outgoing President, Adrian Francis who is seeking re-election has been offered the post of Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health.
She said that Francis has acknowledged that he was approached for the position but had not received a letter of appointment from the Public Service Commission (PSC).
She pointed out that if Francis is appointed to the PS position then he would have to quit as head of the union.
“As PS he would be the head of the ministry and no one who heads a ministry can be the President of the union. If the workers have a problem in the Ministry of Health and the union is involved in that struggle, and Adrian is the PS then it would be a compromising situation with the head of our union meeting with himself to address the concerns of the workers. He (Francis) would have to resign as head of the union”, she said.
The PWU elections will be held on April 7 to elect a new executive to manage the affairs of the union for the next two years.
Francis is being challenged for the post of President by Senior Officer in the Human Resource Division of the Ministry of Education, Andrew Augustine, and Malachy Dottin, an employee of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Chairman of the Zero Hunger Initiative Program.
However, the incumbent President is not daunted by the challenge and feels confident that the PWU membership will re-elect him as their leader.
Francis has stated that under his first term as President, the union was able to save many jobs in the Public Service despite the so-called self-imposed Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) introduced by the Mitchell-led government.
He said that PWU was able to save the jobs of workers at the Government Printery, Government Information Service (GIS) following announcement from the administration that it plans to turn these entities into Statutory Bodies.
He also made mention of the jobs of workers at the Mirabeau Farm in St. Andrew’s and those at the Grenada Postal Co-operation which were also saved by the union.
He also pointed to a battle being waged by PWU with the Mitchell administration for the payment of increments to public officers.
Another soaring point for PWU is to get government to honour a court decision to pay pension benefits to public sector workers who have been employed in the Service after 1983.
During his Independence Day message, Prime Minister Mitchell announced that a committee will be put in place to look at the payment of pension due to civil servants.
In the PWU elections, the post of 1st Vice President will be contested between Rachael Roberts who is the incumbent, and Ernie James and Dr. Devon Francique.
The position of 2nd Vice President which is held by Dexter Leggard of Carriacou is unopposed along with the position of Secretary, Hannah Campbell.
The contenders for the position of Assistant General Secretary are Meryl Phillip Sylvester and Angela James-Teka who are both incumbents.
They are being challenged by Cavel AC Lett and Judy Lewis-Joseph Treasurer Egbert Felix is being challenged by Justin Hazzard and Reubin Solomon.
Brain Grimes who is the incumbent Public Relations Officer (PRO) will face off against Kerry Frank and Dr. Winston Thomas who was booted out of the Executive in 2013.
Dr. Thomas is regarded as a strong supporter of the “Project Grenada” initiative.
Dottin has been identified as the person spearheading “The Team Unity” pack in the elections.
A source identified other members of the team as Dr. Francique, Sylvester, Lett, and Dr. Thomas.