The incumbent President of the Public Workers Union (PWU), Rachael Roberts will be challenged for her position at next month election by her own Public Relations Officer (PRO),Brian Grimes.
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY newspaper, Grimes said that he had served as PRO for the past six years and believes that the time is ripe for him to attain a much higher position in the union which represents most of the island’s 5500 public officers.
“It is a leap of faith as such on my part to step away from the position of Public Relations Officer to President of the Public Workers Union,” he said.
He spoke of trying to introduce a “democratic team approach” to serving in the position of PWU President, if elected to replace Roberts who has been at the helm for the past two years.
Grimes is believed to be getting support from a faction within the union that has been critical of Roberts’ style of leadership, accusing the incumbent of not being inclusive in the decision-making process.
He told this newspaper: “Over the past six years I have been nationally elected as the Public Relations Officer, sitting in negotiations and experiencing different trade, industrial relations disputes and interacting with senior trade unionists. I believe, I am well prepared to take up the position of President of Public Workers Union.
“… I pledge to approach negotiations in a more data related and scientific manner. I also pledge to involve the talent of the public service – there are many talented people within the public service that I can seek advice from and even past Presidents.
In an apparent attack on Roberts, Grimes said: “…I will have a very democratic team approach and there also will be many more workplaces that I can interact and create a connection with workers as opposed to them seeing us in the media or on TV – there will be more tangible interactions with the public servants”.
The PRO was also asked to comment on reports within certain sections of the public service that he lacks the stature to successfully run the affairs of the largest public sector union on the island.
He said: “If you look at the history of anybody who took a leap of faith in anything, there have been naysayers and there have been detractors – any successful person can tell you that. Sometimes, even their family members doubt their capacity in fulfilling whatever venture that they decide to undertake.
“I am a person, I have a decent level of self confidence and I am absolutely confident in this regard, in this particular position that I am 100% ready to take it upon my shoulders and I think I will do a great job.
“… Like I said, it is not just an adhoc move, I have been prepared by my sitting on the Executive for the past six years and seriously I was the Youth chair four years before being nationally elected and I have been around veteran Trade Unionist like Madonna Harford (former PWU President) and people of that level and a matter of fact, I know I will do a great job. I will prove those naysayers wrong and I will do my best if and when I am elected as President of the Public Workers Union.”
Grimes also denied reports in circulation that he is getting support to unseat Roberts by the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.
“Brian Grimes is not affiliated with any party in this country, the only party that I am affiliated with is my personal principles – that is the way I operate. I am an independent thinker, I take pride in that. I am (a) team player but as far as being bought off by the New National Party or in fact any party, it is a laughable notion and it is something I decided not to even give a response to or dignify with a response but as the question will be asked, I can say categorically that is a no, no and I am an independent person. The New National Party has not approached me on any matter. I have not interacted with any players within that party and my concern is the elevation of workers’ rights in this tri-island.”
Speculation is rife that veteran trade unionist, Chester Humphrey who now holds the powerful position of President of the Senate under the ruling party is giving support to Grimes to take over the PWU leadership as he believes the time has come for a new generation of trade union leaders to emerge in the country.
According to Grimes, the fear of victimisation will not prevent him from fulfilling his obligation to fight for the rights of workers if elected to the top position within PWU.
He said: “My conviction and my passion for workers’ rights supersede any fear of victimisation from the government or any other person. My personal philosophy in life is that you have to live it to your fullest and whatever gift that God has given to you, you have to utilise it. I realise my gift is speaking and acting on behalf of the working class in this country and no amount of fear or threats can dissuade me from the purpose”.
Today Friday (February 15) is Nomination Day for the PWU biennial election which is due to be held on March 8.
This newspaper has seen a list with a slate of candidates being circulated within the public service with Grimes as down to contest the post of President.
The others on the slate are: Dr. Devon Francis – 1st Vice-President, Finbar Thomas – 2nd Vice-President, Daisy Hazzard – PRO, and Paula Phillip – Secretary.