But the corporation says overtime abuse in Abaco was egregious
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Dozens of employees at the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) began work to rule yesterday, citing the corporation’s failure to pay overtime for work done post-Hurricane Dorian on the affected island of Abaco.
The bargaining agent for line staff, the Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union, said it was appalled at the behavior of the executives of the corporation, namely its executive chairman and general manager.
“The executives are attempting to minimize the influence of representative trade union,” the BUSAWU said.
“They are ignoring, disregarding and blatantly disrespecting the union’s membership by rolling back benefits that are contained in the Industrial Agreement ranging from.”
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.
The corporation fired back last night, stating it was taken aback by the “sudden, ill-advised and unreasonable” statements by the union and its president, Dwayne Woods.
In a press statement, the corporation accused of launching “baseless, uncivil, erroneous and unfounded attacks upon our executive chairman and general manager”.
“WSC rejects, in its entirety, those groundless assertions,” the corporation said.
The corporation said Woods opted to return to work after his salary was interrupted for failure to report to duty.
It said he earned $60,000 per year without having worked at WSC for seven years and given his return, it was expected that he would observe the daily work schedule of the corporation and given the standard eight hours per day, while refraining from being disruptive.
The corporation insisted that at no time has the its executives ignored, disregarded or disrespected its employees, the union’s assertions that WSC sought to roll back benefits in the industrial agreement is “completely and patently false”.
It added that responsibility allowance is not an automatic entitlement, but granted when an employees does not satisfy all the requirements to receive acing allowance, but is called upon to perform a significant part of the duties in an established or newly created position where the position is a higher grade.
The corporation said in those instances the employee should be paid 30 percent of the difference between his or her salary and the mid-point of the scale of the position which he or she has performed duties.
Additionally, WSC said in recent months the accounts department raised a red flag about the “abuse of overtime in Abaco”.
It 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.
“It was discovered that a handful of persons assigned to the Abaco restoration exercise had accrued astounding amounts of overtime, with claims of 200 and 300 hours of overtime for the month of October—in addition to their regular hours of work,” WSC said.
“These claims – which amounted to $14,232.52, $9,897.35 dollars, $9005.96 dollars and various amounts hovering in this range for a one- month period—are suspected of being fraudulent and exploitation.
The union submitted it proposal in May 2019 and expected a counter proposal in September 2019.
The union said management requested an extension to November 2019 due to Hurricane Dorian, which decimated Grand Bahama and Abaco in early September.
“Subsequently, two additional extensions were requested November 14 and 22, 2019,” BUSAWU said.
“To date, we have neither received a counter proposal from WSC, nor had the opportunity for a meeting, as requested by the union.
The union continued: “The matters as mentioned are breaches of the Industrial Agreement between WSC and BUSAWU, the Industrial Relations Act and the Employment Act.
BUSAWU apologized to the Bahamian people for any inconvenience caused as a result of work to rule, which it referred to as “reduced enthusiasm”.