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NATUC elects new president

NATUC press release, 2 July 2000

The National Trade Union Centre has a new President - but the rest of the elections are yet to be completed.

Having successfully completed most of its business, including the unanimous adoption of the General Council Report, the accounts for previous years and a good debate of the future work of NATUC, the election process took more time.

The first post to be re-elected was that of President and Robert Giuseppi was elected with 125 votes to 112 for Lyle Townsend. Robert Giuseppi is the 1st Deputy President General of the National Union of Government and Federated Workers. Lyle Townsend is the Secretary General of the Communication Workers Union.

Speaking immediately after his election, Robert Giuseppi said:

Now that there has been a change of leadership in NATUC it is my intention that we should turn our trade union centre into an effective voice for the working people of this country. We have a major responsibility to speak, not only for organised workers, but the for the poor and under privileged in Trinidad and Tobago and the region.

I am determined that we will build NATUC into a trade union centre that we can be proud of. It will not happen overnight but we will be making a start first thing Monday morning. The NATUC Convention discussed and agreed on a programme of work and we have to start putting this into action.

Elections for the remaining positions ran into minor procedural problems and their completion was eventually postponed due to the late hour. The session ended at about 10.30 p.m.with all the other elections still to be completed.

Robert Giuseppi explained:

The Constitution of NATUC allows for substitute delegates[1]. Because of the late hour, the Tobago delegates of many unions had left and the NUGFW asked the Returning Officer if they could use a substitute delegate to vote. Although this was approved by the Returning Officer, some of Unions objected and the NUGFW immediately agreed to withdraw its substitute delegate if that would settle that matter. Unfortunately delegates from some unions wanted to use this to force a re-election of the Presidents position even though that result had been declared by the Returning Officer and accepted by the Convention.

Even an intervention by Dean Nolly Clarke, who had been invited by Errol McLeod, the outgoing President to act as the Election Supervisor, failed to settle the matter. Appeals from Trevor Oliver, President of TTUTA[2], and Mario Als, an Executive Officer of BIGWU[3], also fell on deaf ears.

In my view this should have been a small matter and I am disappointed that some people made it into a bigger issue that than it need have been.

The formal position is that for the time being, NATUC has a President but no other officers or a Central Executive. In talking about where NATUC needs to go from here, Robert Giuseppi said:

Obviously the situation has to be resolved as early as possible. I intend to call together all the Presidents and General Secretary?s of affiliated unions at the earliest opportunity so that we can sensibly sort out how to proceed. It might be that we should involve Nolly Clarke, or George de Pena of the Caribbean Congress of Labour or Evelyn Greaves of the ILO Office here in Port of Spain. All these people have acted as conciliators in the past and I am sure they would be able to assist us again if that proves necessary.

I am also discussing with colleagues whether we need to get some legal advice because I do not want us to take decisions now that might be subject to challenges at a later date. We have important business to get on with and I am determined that we will not get embroiled in internal conflicts that distract us from our main task of speaking on behalf of the trade union movement."

In issuing an appeal to NATUC affiliates, Mr. Giuseppi said:

I would certainly appeal to affiliated unions to take a positive and constructive approach. We have worked hard to build a single trade union centre in the country and it is important that we do not allow ourselves to be divided. I have always taken the view that we need to foster more tolerance of different views. We must have unity on the key issues, but in any democratic organisation there is bound to be debate, discussion and even disagreement at times. I don't have a problem with that. I think it is a sign that an organisation is alive and well.

[1] Article 9 (vi)(c) of the NATUC Constitution says: "Affiliates shall be permitted to have substitute delegates at the Convention in the absence of official delegates, who shall have equal power whiles so acting."

[2] Trinidad " Tobago Unified Teachers Association

[3] Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (formerly the bank and General Workers Union)