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Gairy’s union lost headquarters building on the Carenage

The building that once served as the headquarters of the Grenada Manual, Mental & Intellectual Workers Union that was formed by Sir Eric Matthew Gairy

One of Grenada’s oldest trade unions has lost its multi-million dollar headquarters building in the city.

The Grenada Manual, Mental & Intellectual Workers Union (GMMIWU) which was formed nearly 75 years ago is no longer in possession of the building on the Carenage waterfront that was gifted to it by the island’s first Prime Minister Eric Gairy.

Informed sources told THE NEW TODAY that the union lost control of the building after defaulting on a multi-million dollar loan from a local financial institution.

The current President of the union, Oscar Williams confirmed that the GMMIWU is no longer the owner of the building as it was not able to pay back a loan that was taken out on the building by his predecessor the late Bert La Touche who died several months ago in the United States.

The Jamaican-born Williams did not want to go into details on the loan arrangement on the grounds that he was not aware of the transaction between La Touche and Clico Insurance to renovate the building.

“I can’t say much about it as I don’t know much about what took place. The loan was taken out under my predecessor Mr. La Touche. The building has been sold – it is true,” he said.

According to Williams, although he was running the day-to-day operations of the union, La Touche who had migrated to the United States over a decade now was still “in charge” of the affairs of the union.

“There are some things that I can’t answer because it’s above my pay grade and above my understanding,” he remarked.

However, there are credible reports that La Touche was able to transfer the ownership of the union headquarters to himself in an arrangement worked out by a lawyer who has since passed away.

A union executive member said she understood that La Touche was able to put the building in his name, took out a loan and used the building as collateral.

She said the union only got wind of what had taken place from another local attorney.

She confirmed that although La Touche was not living in Grenada he was able to collect some financial assistance from the GMMIWU from time-to-time for his upkeep in the United States.

Asked how much was the stipend given to the U.S-based La Touche, she said: “I can’t recall as I don’t sign cheques.”

The union official admitted that the loss of the GMMIWU building has put the GMMIWU in a very precarious financial position as it was not able to collect rent for a considerable period of time.

“It has put us in a bad position – no money, everyday I’m struggling. It’s like hand-to-mouth for me,” she said.

“We didn’t know what was taking place and it (sale of the building) happened just so,” she said.

Sir Eric had used the union to launch a successful career in politics and had dominated the Grenadian political landscape from 1951 until he was toppled in a 1979 coup d’etat staged by the left-leaning New Jewel Movement (NJM) of Maurice Bishop.

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