Unions at WSC set to withdraw labor today

Unions at WSC set to withdraw labor today
Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) President Dwayne Woods. (FILE PHOTO)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — The unions representing line staff and managers at the Water and Sewerage Corporation are expected to strike today amid a tense stalemate between the bargaining agents and the corporation’s executive management.

Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) President Dwayne Woods confirmed the move in an interview with Eyewitness News Online yesterday.

“Both unions, the managers and the BUSAWU met today (Monday) and we made a decision to sign an agreement that both unions at the Water and Sewerage Corporation will be taking part in an legal strike,” Woods said.

“Both union will be using their strike certificate, which was achieved late last year.

“We are taking that opportunity to say to The Bahamas that we have had enough at the Water and Sewerage Corporation of the abuse of our membership.”

Woods apologized to the Bahamian public for the inconvenience caused during this time.

“I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to the general public for any inconvenience caused, although we don’t plan to inconvenience them, but you know we are at a point where we can’t get matters resolved with the corporation,” he said.

“So, at this time we have to withdraw our enthusiasm. We call it withdrawal of enthusiasm, but you may call it what you call it.”

Asked whether staff would still show up for work, Woods said: “We will show up in a lawful strike. That’s what we will be doing.”

Both unions are expected to demonstrate outside the corporation’s headquarters on Thompson Boulevard at 11 am.

Woods said the union met with the corporation’s executive management last Thursday, but none of the substantive issues were resolved.

According to the union, there has been a failure to complete grievances at the executive level; a discontinuation of responsibility allowance payments, which the union claimed was 13 months overdue; failure to pay overtime to members for Abaco restoration; a failure to pay regular overtime in New Providence and the Family Islands; and the corporation’s failure to submit an industrial agreement counter proposal, among a myriad of other issues.

However, WSC has called Woods claims “baseless, uncivil, erroneous and unfounded”. It has also claimed in recent months that a handful of employees assigned to work in Abaco’s restoration following Hurricane Dorian egregiously abused the overtime system, resulting in one employees being disciplined to date.

The corporation said the matter was so egregious that it was referred to the internal control and compliance investigatory division and elevated to the Board of Directors.

Woods once again called on Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis to intervene.

Calls placed to Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes were not returned.

Yesterday Woods said: “We were hoping that the minister would amicably try to bring both parties together to resolve it, but you know, he has already gone on record stating the fact that he supports [WSC Executive Chairman] Mr. [Adrian] Gibson, without really looking into the matter and seeing if Mr. Gibson is right or wrong.

“Mr. Gibson’s claims are baseless and the union is also submitting a counterclaim that the workers are being abused.”

Director of Labour John Pinder could not be reached for comment.

The overwhelming majority of line staff and managers at WSC who participated in a strike vote last year, agreed to strike.

The line staff has approximately 318 members.

The Water and Sewerage Management Union has 62 members.