AN injunction which froze the bank accounts of the Public Services Association (PSA) was varied on Monday to allow the union to carry on its functions.
On Monday attorneys for the PSA, and a group of members who have brought contempt proceedings against the union and its executive, agreed to have the injunction, granted in December, varied as it was proving problematic for the union and its bankers.
Justice Devindra Rampersad, who is hearing the contempt application, signed off on the agreement which will only prevent the union’s executive from making “extraordinary” expenses.
These were defined as expenditures not anticipated in the normal day-to-day operations and outside of the defined administrative and operative expenses of the PSA. The only extraordinary expenditure allowed would be those authorised by the union’s general council in keeping with the PSA’s constitution.
The injunction was granted on December 14 by Justice Frank Seepersad when five PSA members – Curtis Cuffie, Demetrius Harrison, Annisha Persad, Curtis Meade and Duaine Hewitt – filed their contempt-of-court application.
Seepersad’s injunction allowed for normal operating expenses to be made including the payment of salaries, water, electricity, telephone, communication and gas bills. The injunction applied to all of the union’s assets, including accounts at RBC, JMMB, Republic Bank, Scotiabank, Unit Trust Corporation, Trintoplan Investment, and Plipdeco, as well as four vehicles.
The contempt action was sought after the members complained of repeated and continuous breaches by the PSA executive to comply with two previous orders of the court on section elections, auditing of accounts and membership lists.
They also said they feared the union’s assets would continue to be dissipated as purchases of luxury vehicles were made yet calls for accountability went unanswered.
“The general council approves extraordinary expenditure… the fact is there has been a failure over five years to have the annual general conference so there is no real budget in the release sense as provided for by the constitution to spend money. There is no mandate. The money is being spent and special conferences are allowing piecemeal spending,” attorney Raisa Caesar, who represents the five members, said in submissions on Monday.
She also said the “original sin” of the PSA was not conducting the financial audits of the union as ordered by Rampersad in 2020.
“A great harm can happen if the court’s order (the injunction) is maintained. Everything being done is tainted and the court should not allow this to continue.”
Caesar said her clients were not opposed to a variation of the injunction to only present extraordinary expenditure.
“We are not going to nitpick but we want transparency. We are not asking the court to audit the accounts.”
However, the attorney for the PSA, John Heath, provided examples to the judge of how the injunction was proving problematic.
Heath said the union was being frustrated to make any kind of payments since at least one of its bankers has said the paying of salaries was not an operating expense.
He said the injunction was not meant to frustrate the ordinary expenditure of the union but prohibit larger expenses such as the purchase of luxury vehicles which, in any event, he said, remained as an asset of the PSA.
Heath said the utility of the injunction came about because of how things unfolded, but told the judge what was really being asked of him was to micro-manage the PSA’s expenses.
Rampersad will hear the contempt application at a trial in March.
In their contempt application, the five PSA members accused the union’s executive of failing to comply with its constitution and failing to hold elections for nine years even in the face of court decisions in their favour.
They have also complained of the PSA’s failure to properly constitute the general council and conference; making exorbitant purchases and approving salary increases; and failing to audit its finances for over a decade.
The PSA members are also represented by Tekani Trim, while Rajiv Persad, Heath, and Lionel Luckhoo represent the PSA.
Scotiabank was represented by Jean-Louis Kelly.