President of the Public Service Union, Elroy Boucher, says he is seeking legal advice on statements that Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves made about him on radio on Thursday.
“He is lying,” Boucher told iWitness News on Sunday of the head of government.
He said that Gonsalves first made the statements in 2015 and he spoke to the prime minister about them.
Boucher said Gonsalves had told him that he had made the statements because it was “political warfare”.
“He seems now that he is further embellishing his lies. I don’t understand why the prime minister would stoop to that level to try to denigrate and assassinate someone’s character. In my opinion, he is lowering the office of the prime minister,” Boucher said.
In an interview on Boom FM, Gonsalves said that Boucher had asked him to intervene, in 2015, to have him appointed head of the maintenance department of the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.
Boucher said the PSU head is “most openly and vocally political” — more so than Noel Jackson and Joseph “Burns” Bonadie, two trade unionists who host “Shake Up” a programme on WE FM that is supportive of Gonsalves’ Unity Labour Party.
In addition to his radio appearances, Bonadie is on the government’s payroll as advisor to the prime minister on labour matters.
Gonsalves has accused Boucher of being opposed to him politically and said on radio on Thursday:
“I think Boucher is motivated by a personal bile,” the prime minister said, adding that in 2015, Boucher called him at his office, during work hours, “to ask me to intervene to ensure that he became the head of the department of maintenance at the hospital”.
Gonsalves said he told Boucher: “You may not believe it but I don’t go down into the bowels of the public service to know what vacancies there are.”
The prime minister, however, went on to explain how he had inquired about the vacancy and Boucher’s suitability to fill it.
The prime minister said he did not know that there was a vacancy in the maintenance department at MCMH.
He said Boucher told him that the personnel in the Ministry of Health had recommended someone who was less experienced but has a degree from a university in Cuba.
“I said to him, I will find out what the situation is,” the prime minister said.
“I called the then permanent secretary, who is working elsewhere now because he is retired. Anybody could ask him. The permanent secretary told me — he said, of the persons who are there, Boucher might be number three or even number four.
“He told me there are two fellas down there who graduated in the technical field, whatever is required for that thing and one is there longer and that is the one he is recommending to be promoted by the Public Service Commission. That there was even a lady there who has a master’s degree, was the youngest of the ones who were there, that he would even put her above.”
Gonsalves said Boucher told him he is trained and does the bulk of the work at the department.
“The fella say don’t pay any attention to Boucher on that. He said Boucher comes and goes when he wants, Boucher behaves like a law unto himself. He spends most times dealing with football and union business; he ain’t checking heself in or out when he is coming, yuh could hardly get him to do anything. He said check the people in the hospital administration, which I did. And the relevant person confirmed it at the hospital administration what the then permanent secretary told me.
“When I spoke to Boucher subsequent to getting all that information, he continued to push me. I said Boucher, ‘You want me to use my political office to interfere in a matter which is not in my province. ‘I said, ‘More than that, are these persons not members of your union?’”
Gonsalves said he had never done so for anyone what Boucher allegedly requested of him.
Asked if he had made any intervention of that sort to the Public Service Commission, Gonsalves said:
“[Cecil] ‘Blazer’ Williams could tell you, as the Chairman of the Public Service and the Police Service Commissions, the communications which we have would be communications related to permanent secretaries.”
The prime minister said there is a constitutional role for him if a public servant is to the appointed an ambassador or in the diplomatic field or the appointment of the Commissioner of Police or the Deputy Commissioner of Police.
“I have to talk to Blazer about the appointment of the Supervisor of Elections, I can’t advise Blazer on the Supervisor of Elections because he consults with me and he advises the Governor General for the Supervisor of Elections.
“In relations to permanent secretary, the way the Constitution is written, and for Commissioner and deputy commission, is not that I will get the person whom I want, but for them to appoint the persons to permanent secretary or commissioner, deputy commissioner, I will concur…”