Categorized | National News

Stalemate Persists at WSC

The stalemate  between the Unions of the  Water and Sewerage Corporation and  the Executive Board continues with the Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) President Dwayne Woods saying that  he and his  union followed the proper procedure when the Union’s strike poll was conducted a week ago. 

Mr. Woods was responding to claims by Water and Sewerage Corporation’s  Board  who questioned whether the  Union met the requirements stipulated in its constitution and subsequently dismissed the Union’s results of a vote to strike. 

A press release following BUSAWU and the Water and Sewerage Management Union’s [WSMU] strike poll, cited particulars of the unions constitution that states, in both cases, that in order to take such action “no less than 60 percent or two-thirds of the bargaining unit must vote in favour”. 

However, based on poll counts, “32% of the managers voted in favor, 19% against and 49% abstained” for WSMU. With a compliment of 73 managers, only 23 voted in support with 14 against strike action. 

Similarly, for  BUSAWU members, “nearly 34% voted in favour, 9% voted against and nearly 57% or 177 abstained”. Data provided indicated that the union has 312 [non-managers]; 106 voting in favor of a strike and 29 voted against the strike. 

With these numbers, WSC Board said that the lawful threshold for issuance of a strike certificate was not met. 

However, BUSAWU President, Mr. Woods said that proper procedures were followed as the Department of Labour  conducted the poll. 

“We did all the  due diligence and the strike poll was conducted by the Ministry of Labour, which is the government run organization for strike poll. 

“So, I don’t see how executives of the corporation can question the government. 

“The Director [of Labour], conducted my poll [and] there shouldn’t be a question with my poll. I’m expecting a strike certificate from the Ministry in short order,” Mr. Woods said. 

When asked  about the next step once the strike certificate is in hand, Mr. Woods said “we’d like to go to the table and sit down with the matter, but if not,  then we have to do what we have to do”. 

Mr. Woods further insisted that WSC’s Executive Chairman, Adrian Gibson, “is trying to muddy the water.

“He can’t direct the Ministry of Labour, and what he is trying to do is direct the Ministry of Labour. 

“How could you question the government organization responsible for strike poll? Who is responsible for strike polls in The Bahamas? 

“So, if I didn’t follow the right procedure, wouldn’t the Department of Labour not conduct the poll? They conducted the poll, the people voted, the voice of the people is the voice of God and they have spoken.

“What wrong have I done when the official persons to conduct the poll [is] the Minister of Labour?” Mr. Woods said. 

He  called  the Executive Chairman disingenuous, charging that he is “campaigning for public opinion” and questioned why, the chairman, is meddling in the internal affairs of the union.

“However, the law will take its course. If we are wrong, then allow the Department of Labour to determine the illegality of the poll, and not him,” Mr. Woods said.

In its press release, WSC also said, ” Mr. Woods continues to bemoan the Board’s decision to end his administrative leave and direct him to return to work. Mr. Woods is well aware that he submits yearly requests for administrative leave (by letter) and that it is within the discretion of the Board. 

“The administrative leave applies solely to the president and is separate from the union leave. However, even if the union leave and administrative leave were  the same— as per Article 14.01 of the Industrial Agreement—it states that “an employee, elected to a permanent Union Office, which requires Union Leave, may be granted such leave, as the Corporation determines….” Given the same, it is evident that that remains within the purview of WSC.

“Unfortunately, Mr. Woods has been disruptive ever since his administrative leave was terminatedand he was ordered back to work. Last month, given his failure to report for duty, his $60,000salary—which he enjoyed for nearly 8 years without coming to work—was stopped. This, itappears, resulted in some of the recent actions. 

“President Woods is encouraged to report for duty, the release stated. 

In response to this, Mr. Woods said his leave is applied for every three years and not yearly.

“It is only the renewal of it. It’s a benefit under the Industrial Agreement for every three year term in office, and we go to election, and whoever wins the election then applies for the renewal. 

“I have won the three year term in office on three consecutive elections and that’s what is granted  me;  nine years of being able to do the people’s work, with pay.

“The chairman is attempting to roll back that benefit in the middle of a term,” Mr. Woods said.

Mr. Wood said that it’s an attempt to “change the rules of the game, in the middle of the game”. 

He added that in order to make the change, there has to be negotiations and it must be mutually agreed upon and cannot be changed unilaterally. 

Meantime, WSC’s Board also claims  that by law,  WSC’S Managerial Union’s president, Ednell Roll should not have been allowed to have a strike poll as his term in office expired last month. 

Written by Jones Bahamas

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