WSC challenges unions strike votes

NASSAU, BAHAMAS – Challenging the legitimacy of both strike votes taken by the line staff and managerial unions at the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) last week, the WSC board said it has advised the general manager and the counsel of the corporation to file a trade dispute.

In a 10-page letter, board members said the industrial agreements between the corporation and both unions govern all parties and those agreements “cannot be dropped and picked up when convenient”.

The overwhelming majority of line staff and managers at WSC, who took part in a strike vote last Wednesday, opted to strike.

Director of Labour John Pinder advised that based on preliminary results, 106 line staff workers voted to strike and 29 voted against it.

Meanwhile, 21 managers opted to strike while 14 decided not to strike.

The Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) has 318 members, according to officials.

The Water and Sewerage Management Union (WSMU) has 62 members.

According to the board, the results reflected that 32 percent of the WSMU voted to strike, while nearly 34 percent of the BUSAWU voted to strike.

It said, “The Industrial Relations Act states that a representational count must be taken in such actions and no less than sixty per centum of employees (two-thirds) in the bargaining unit must vote in favour.

It continued, “On the face of it, the strike poll appears to have been a joint effort on the part of the presidents of the non-management union and the management union to call a strike poll in furtherance of a trade dispute between employers and employees, with the ultimate objective being further upheaval.

“No effort has been made to speak to the EXCOM (executive committee), the Board, the minister or the Department of Labour.

“These matters are all disingenuously aired out in press statements, which is representative of a total abuse of the grievance process.

“Given the same, we have urged the general ganager and WSC counsel to file yet another trade dispute on WSC’s behalf.”

Irregularities

The board said as of Tuesday, the corporation had not received formal confirmation of approval of the strike poll, and was only advised late that evening by the Department of Labour that the vote had been approved.

“There have been concerns expressed about voting irregularities, ranging from former president’s changing of the time of the voting period from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to persons seeking to prohibit the board’s secretary — who is a manager — from voting,” the board said.

The board charged that BUSAWU President Dwayne Woods has been disruptive since his administrative leave was terminated and he was instructed to return to work.

It noted that his salary was stopped last month for failure to report to work after a reported eight years of enjoying administrative leave, which the board said was discretionary.

The board asserted that the recent actions of the union is directly linked.

“President Woods’ words and his actions must begin to align, otherwise the same might appear duplicitous,” the letter read.

“The development of a relationship that is necessary to advance interest of the corporation and his union would require honesty, trust and transparency.

“It would require the demonstration of a sincere and respectful effort to establish a harmonious environment as opposed to disruption.

“As the old saying goes, one cannot be fish and fowl at the same time.”

The board encouraged WSMU President Ednel Rolle and Woods to speak directly with the corporation as opposed to “promoting a charade in the media”.

“Moreover, we encourage them (or any successor) to abide by the five step grievance in the media,” the letter read.

“No part of that process speaks to issuing unproductive, untrue and/or defamatory media statements.

“There are much more important corporate-wide goals for both unions to collaborate on that are far more important [than] seeking to have the executive chairman and the board dismissed.

“We note that Mr. Rolle has taken an unreasonable and untenable position relative to the impending industrial agreement.

The board said there has been little movement on the agreement for six years and the views of the union’s leadership appear unchanged.

The board said it has referred the matter to Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister, the Office of the Attorney General and the Office of the Prime Minister.

According to Rolle, the WSMU’s 2013 industrial agreement expired in June 2018.

He claimed negotiations on a new agreement have yet to begin.

 

Suspensions

Earlier this month, the corporation suspended two employees, which prompted the union to withdraw its enthusiasm.

The board said during meetings with Director of Labour and the line-staff union, among other labour officials, the board presented video evidence which reportedly demonstrated one employee in question breaching company policy relating to an imported and unlicensed vehicle being parked on company property without permission.

As it relates to the second employee’s suspension, the board said the staff member was accused of operating a car rental business on the company’s property.

It said a decision was made not to fire the employee in good faith.