Former Public Services Association (PSA) president Clyde Weatherhead believes that PSA president and deputy Tobago House of Assembly (THA) Chief Secretary Watson Duke can sit in the two full-time positions.
Weatherhead said there isn’t anything that debars a trade unionist or leader from being involved in political activity, electoral or otherwise.
“That is his constitutional and human right and civic responsibility. Being in the THA Executive Council and the PSA executive is a situation of conflict of interest and there are ways to deal with that,” Weatherhead said.
He added, “For the law to impose a choice in such situations reinforces the notion that trade unionists should not, contrary to the constitutional right to participate in the political affairs of the society and flies against the historical experience of this country from Cipriani to now.”
He pointed to people like Arthur Cipriani, Tubal Uriah ‘Buzz’ Butler, Adrian Cola Rienzi, Alphonso Philbert, Theophilus ‘Fargo’ James and others, who he noted were all trade union leaders and politicians at the same time. “Weren’t they at different points both trade unionists and members of the Legislative Council? Wasn’t Bhadase Sagan Maharaj, a trade union leader and politician and Parliamentarian all at once? Weren’t Basdeo Panday, George Weekes, Rafique Shah also trade union leaders and politicians and Parliamentarians simultaneously? Weren’t there many others in similar positions, senators and trade unionists, like James Manswell of the PSA or Nathaniel Critchlow and Selwyn John of NUGFW,” he asked.
Weatherhead said he had served on the PSA executive for seven years as secretary/treasurer and then President, both in full-time positions.
“During that time, I maintained my political opinion and activity and performed my union duties. When Basdeo Panday, as PM, agreed to the trade unions’ long-standing demand for union representation on state boards, the NATUC executive adopted the policy of nominating representatives of unions to boards where the union was the recognised union as far as possible. I was appointed to the WASA and NIPDEC boards, where the PSA was one of the representing unions. Conflict of interest cannot serve two masters was probably the cry of some about union representation on boards at all and more, particularly as was NATUC’s policy,” he said.
Weatherhead said that at no time during his seven years as a full-time officer of the PSA, did he accept the full salary of either secretary/treasurer or president.