NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Executive Chairman of the Water and Sewerage Corporation, Adrian Gibson, on Sunday sought to set the record straight on a number of claims levied last Friday by president of The Bahamas Utility Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) Dwayne Woods.
At a press conference held last week, Woods said line staff at the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) were considering a strike vote as the union had many concerns. Some of the main concerns expressed included the denial of free usage of office space for union meetings, the refusal to grant administrative leave to the union president, and forcing employees to take accrued vacation leave.
On Sunday, Gibson said the board and management of WSC were taken aback by the commentary of Woods and much of his “rabble-rousing” is simply because he does not want to return to work.
In fact, Gibson alleged that Woods has not worked for years.
“Unlike any other union president in The Bahamas, Mr. Woods has been on an administrative leave that has come at great cost to the Bahamian taxpayer. He draws a salary of approximately $60,000 per year from WSC; accrues vacation time; accrues sick leave and enjoys all the benefits without ever coming to work. Mr. Woods has not performed a day’s work for WSC in years,” Gibson claimed.
Gibson further alleged that in addition to drawing this “free salary” from WSC, Woods gets an additional $2,000 as the union president and the union also pays for other perks such as a cell phone, airfare and gasoline for vehicles.
“What’s more, in the past Mr. Woods was even paid a proficiency pay by WSC; was astoundingly paid a partial increment in 2013; requested yearly increments and additional benefits; has requested promotions/upward mobility. This is all while having no job description and therefore being unable to have his performance evaluated in the absence of any WSC job-related performance/activities as was rightly observed by former GM Glen Laville in a letter to him on 9 May, 2016,” Gibson said.
At last Friday’s press conference held by the union, Woods said it has been customary for more than 13 years for the BUSAWU president to be granted administrative leave from his duties as an employee of the company, and it can only be reversed with mutual agreement between parties.
Late last year, Woods filed an action in the Supreme Court as it relates to his administrative leave, but Gibson said on Sunday that the crux of Woods’ action was that he felt that he should not return to work and that he should continue to draw a WSC salary without doing so.
“He also claimed that his union should not pay WSC rent, though that was done for years by his predecessor and was agreed to by him,” Gibson said.
The WSC Executive Chairman told the media that WSC has instructed its attorneys to seek to strike out the Union’s Writ of Summons as the matters stated therein are personal to Mr. Woods and given the same, the Union has no locus standi.
According to Gibson, there is no other union leader in the utility sector in the Bahamas, or anywhere else, who has such an administrative as Woods, which is not a facet of the Industrial Agreement.
The WSC Chairman said the administrative leave has been requested annually of consecutive Boards by the union president and it is entirely discretionary.
The Board, he said, can either cancel it or renew it.
Gibson said the existing Board, upon review of the realities on the ground, determined not to renew the administrative leave with pay.
He said Woods was informed of the decision and was told to report for duty.
Claims of rolling back benefits
Gibson said Woods has asserted that the board and management at WSC are rolling back benefits agreed to in the Industrial Agreement, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Gibson said at no point has WSC’s management sought to vary or abrogate its agreement with the union as they are guided by the Industrial Relations Act and strict adherence to the Agreement is consistently and persistently emphasized by him.
Rental of the trailer
Responding to claims of the union renting a trailer, Gibson said to date, Woods has made three payments: one on May 16, another on May 18 and a third on August 16, 2018. Gibson said he has made no payment since then, leaving an outstanding balance at nearly $4,000.
Excess Vacation Days
Last week Woods asserted that WSC was forcing employees to take accrued vacation leave. Also responding to this, Gibson said as per the industrial agreement, vacation must be taken annually and employees cannot accumulate earned vacation beyond a maximum of three years’ entitlement.
Use of WSC property for meetings:
At last week’s press conference, Woods said for the past 35 years the union has been allowed to host union meetings on WSC property after normal working hours. He added, however, that since the new board took office, the police were called in on the union’s meeting which resulted in the president receiving a letter threatening the union with eviction and the rescindment of the union’s administrative leave.
Responding to Woods’ claim, Gibson said, “Put frankly, per long-standing agreements, once informed and once the meeting is not disruptive to WSC’s day to day activities, WSC has always accommodated the union using its compound for meetings.”
Meanwhile, the WSC Chairman said he is unaware of any willingness of staff to strike as claimed last week by Woods.
Gibson said WSC does not intend to impede Woods in performing his union duties, but Woods must return to the job.
“Moreover, the demands of the Corporation require that Mr. Woods return to the job to assist in the Department of Engineering and Planning, where he is to be transferred from the Sewerage Services Department,” Gibson said.
“Mr. Woods remains off of the job. He has not reported for duty. He came on to the compound as recent as last week seeking to incite the employees to move a strike vote in support of him. By and large, employees have indicated to management that they cannot—in good conscience—support such an action given the fact that they too must attend to work daily.
“We also proposed to Mr. Woods that if he really feels so strongly about not wanting to return to work, he could retain his administrative leave—just not at any cost to the Bahamian taxpayers.”