WSC Executive chairman fires back amid labor row

WSC Executive chairman fires back amid labor row
Chairman of the Water & Sewerage Corporation, Adrian Gibson.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS –Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) Executive Chairman Adrian Gibson suggested yesterday that the latest strike action by WSC employees is due to the “unfortunate personalization” by the union’s leader.

Several members of the Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) have been on strike since Tuesday.

However, Chief Justice Brian Moree has granted an injunction ending the strike action and advising those employees to return to work.

In attempts to contextualize how the matter has ballooned to this point, Gibson tabled a compendium of letters between himself and BUSAWU President Dwayne Woods, as well as other correspondence surrounding union matters and notes from recent meetings with WSC executives.

The WSC chairman insisted that the union’s action stems from Woods’ denial from the corporation, including the renewal of his administrative leave.

Gibson explained that when he was appointed to the corporation in 2017, Woods sent him a letter requesting the renewal of his administrative leave.

“In a meeting at my office 5 September 2017, he requested that I give him a corporate car, a corporate cell phone, proficiency pay and an increase in salary,” he said.

“Mr. Woods at the time had not reported to duty in about six to seven years.”

Gibson said those requests were denied and Woods was subsequently advised to return to his post.

According to the letters tabled, Woods was initially advised that he had to return to work on October 1, 2018, but upon intervention by Minister of Works Desmond Bannister, the union leader was given four months to “get his affairs in order”, and subsequently return to work on January 2.

However, Woods did not return work and filed disputes with the Labour Board and action in the Supreme Court.

His salary was suspended along with his vacation and sick leave accrual.

Gibson also pointed to Woods’ request for a promotion in February– which was approved by the corporation but later asked to be shelved until Woods no longer served as union leader.

“In recent days we’ve had some setbacks at WSC due to some strike action,” Gibson said, during his contribution to the 2019/2020 budget debate.

“Over the last few days I have been particularly subject to attacks.

“Whilst this comes with the territory, my only difficulty is when it is untrue and or personal.

“I also understand that as a politician, whether I know or don’t know, I would be the subject of an attack to garner the most attention.

“I want the nation to know that any action we’ve taken is in the best interest of the corporation and the Bahamian people.

“It is unfortunate that his has been completely blown out of proportion, no doubt also due to politics.”

He labeled the ordeal an “unfortunate personalization of these actions”.

However, during a press conference Woods categorically denied all of Gibson’s claims, insisting “nothing could be further from the truth”.

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”.

The corporation 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 employee 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.