W&SC to begin voluntary separation packages

Chairman threatens legal action against employees in wake of audit

Executives of the Water and Sewerage Corporation (W&SC) are preparing to offer staff voluntary separation packages (VSEP) as it looks to right size the company, according to the head of the utility company.

W&SC Chairman and Long Island Member of Parliament (MP) Adrian Gibson made the announcement during his contribution to the budget yesterday, however, he gave no timeline for when the application process will begin.

Bahamas Utilities Service and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) President Dwayne Woods said, 15 members have submitted requests for separation from the company. Despite the union’s efforts, the union president said, management has yet to consult with the union on the proposals.

The water company would become the third state ran entity to undergo this process following the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and Bahamas Power and Light (BPL).

Woods said given the current staff compliment, if W&SC were to undergo a massive separation exercise, the company would be operating at a deficit.

“Right now the corporation has a non-management staff of 340 persons,” he said.

“It is a known fact that over a five-year period, 100 persons would retire due to natural attrition… Two of those five years have gone and some 30 persons have retired. If you ask me, the corporation would be looking for people to work in the next three years.”

Woods urged stakeholders to become engaged in the process to avoid industrial unrest.

“We hope there can be some level of consultation because, an industrial action is not what we are about. Unless the board has a plan that we are unaware of, I don’t see how the reductions can work and still have the employees across the country,” he said.

Gibson added that the Attorney General’s Office is also considering proceeding with charges against employees in the wake of the recent audit conducted by Ernst and Young.

Earlier this year, three employees were charged with stealing by reason of employment for a fire hydrant. Those charges were however dropped by the prosecution.

In response to the threat of legal action, Bahamas Utilities Service and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) President Dwayne Woods said, the chairman appears to be “legally minded” and the union is waiting for the three employees that were cleared of the charges, to be reinstated.

“I don’t put anything past the chairman,” Gibson said.

“Three of my members have been tried and I call on the prime minister to see to it that they are able to get their jobs back.”