High Court nullifies 2020 poll by Trade Union Recognition Board

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…rules against GAWU replacing Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers

By Svetlana Marshall

An attempt by the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) to replace the Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers as the workers’ representative at the Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB), Burma Rice Research Centre failed when the High Court nullified a poll that would have ultimately led to the takeover.

In a High Court ruling on Friday (April 13), Justice Franklyn Holder declared that the decision by the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board to hold the poll pursuant to Section 21 of the Trade Union Recognition Act on December 11, 2020, without first conducting a survey as mandated, is ultra vires, null, void and of no effect.

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The High Court judge also declared the poll at which GAWU enjoyed the majority support of the workers at GRDB’s Burma Rice Research Centre was also null and void.

The Fixed Date Application (FDA) was brought before the High Court by Carl Lynch, a Trustee of the Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers and its General Secretary, Leroy Levans against the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board and its Secretary, Charles Ogle. GAWU was an added respondent in the matter.

In representing the Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers, Senior Counsel Roysdale Forde pointed out that approximately 19 years after the Agricultural and Allied Workers’ Union was certified to represent workers at GRDB’s Burma Rice Research Centre, it was informed by the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board, in October 2019, of an application by GAWU to represent the very workers.

Approximately one year after, in November 2020, the Recognition Board took a decision to carry out a poll to determine which union will represent the workers at GRDB’s Burma Rice Research Centre.

Though both unions subsequently agreed on a date for the poll to be conducted, a list of voters/employees and a submission date, Forde argued that a survey was not conducted in accordance with Section 21 of the Trade Union Recognition Act.

Section 21 (3) states “…Provided that where a certified union is being challenged and the challenging union satisfies the Board, by means of a survey, that the support of the challenging union among the workers in the union is not less than 40%, the Board shall cause a poll to be taken…”

Forde had argued that a poll cannot be conducted unless the results of the survey are presented to the challenging party. According to the court documents, several attempts were made to secure the results of survey but they all proved futile.

On December 1, 2020, the General Secretary of the Agricultural and Allied Workers’ Union wrote the Board on the matter.

Nonetheless, by December 8, 2020 Levans received a letter from the Secretary of the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board informing him that: “…the poll between Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) and [the] Union of Allied and General Workers Union is scheduled for Friday the 11th day of December, 2020 between 8:00am and 4:00pm at Burma Rice Research Centre.” The modalities of the poll were also included in the letter.

In response, the Agricultural and Allied Workers’ Union, in a correspondence, again expressed its concerns, pointing out that a survey as required by Section 21 of the Trade Union Recognition Act must be conducted by an officer of the Ministry of Labour on behalf of the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board. In this regard, it submitted that there was no such poll that established that GAWU has support among the members in the Unit, which is no less than 40%.

“As a Certified and Recognised Majority Union the Applicants have a right rooted in fairness, justice and transparency to consider, review and examine any such Survey to assess whether in fact such challenging Union has the required support among the workers in the Unit,” Forde argued.

He added: “The Respondents are required to conform to procedural fairness and that to discharge their duty and act fairly require that the Respondents disclose the Survey and or the results of the Survey as required by Section 21 of the Trade Union Recognition Act, which eventually would be the reason for the Respondents to hold a Poll in accordance with Section 21 of the Trade Union Recognition Act.”

In upholding Forde’s arguments, Justice Holder issued an Order of Certiorari quashing the poll held by the Trade Union Recognition and Certification Board at GRDB’s Burma Rice Research Centre without the survey as required by Section 21 of the Trade Union Recognition Act. The results were also quashed.

As such, the Certificate of Recognition issued to GAWU as the majority union representing the workers at GRDB’s Burma Rice Research Centre was nullified, and therefore, set aside.

GAWU was represented by Attorney-at-Law Pauline Chase.



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