NWU opens office space to lawyers in return for services
McPherse Thompson, Assistant Editor - Business
The National Workers Union (NWU) offered office space at its Kingston headquarters to a group of lawyers in return for their legal services at discounted rates.
The lawyers pay rent at concessionary rates.
"We are thinking outside the box of regular trade unionism to see how we can be more viable and meaningful in the 21st century; how can we add more value to workers' lives, and the quality of life and development of the country," said NWU General Secretary Granville Valentine.
Denying that the office space was rented to the lawyers to substitute for a decline in union membership and dues, Valentine said the arrangement was meant to strengthen its representation to workers regarding infringements and injury at the workplace, as well as other issues.
"There is a lot of space on the building that was not being used," said Valentine. "The lawyers came on board by design. They were identified and chosen to assist in the process," he said.
Valentine said the lawyers pay for occupancy of the office space at the East Street, Kingston, property, but not at the regular rates as would be applicable further downtown, "because we are seeking for them to partner with us to assist our members if required," he said.
It is also an opportunity for young lawyers to practise and hone their skills without having to join established law firms, he said.
The lawyers establish their own fees, but they usually give discounts to the NWU membership, Valentine added.
"There are instances where members cannot find the fees and these lawyers will assist as best as possible with those matters and work out reasonable arrangements to ensure that the workers get representation."
Regarding NWU's membership, the general secretary said the data was not readily available, but they were in the process of establishing a registry to capture the information.
He said membership fluctuates "day by day".
"We believe we are somewhere in the 30,000-plus," Valentine said, noting that at one point, NWU membership ranged between 40,000 and 50,000 members.
NWU is also setting up space for an Internet facility for members and their children wanting to do research, he said.