Gibson: No more pay for WSC union president unless he returns to work
Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) Executive Chairman Adrian Gibson yesterday dismissed claims made by Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) President Dwayne Woods relating to various concerns at the public utility.
On Friday, Woods said the union is eyeing a strike vote due to concerns which include the alleged denial of free usage of office space for union meetings and the alleged denial of an administrative leave for the union president.
Woods said BUSAWU was disappointed and displeased by the reported attempts by WSC to “blatantly disrespect the union in unilaterally rolling back four benefits, which is a breach of a multiplicity of articles contained in our industrial agreement, the Employment Act and the Industrial Relations Act on the heels of a presentation of a new contractual proposal”.
However, during a press conference at the corporation’s headquarters, Gibson said the board and management of WSC were taken aback by Woods’ commentary.
“Frankly, we are generally of the view that Mr. Woods’ aggressive tactics are disingenuous and non-conciliatory, though he pays lip service to conciliation,” he said.
As it relates to claims of benefits being rolled back, Gibson said, “Nothing could be further from the truth. At no point has WSC’s management sought to vary or abrogate its agreement with the union.”
He further claimed that the union often holds meetings at all hours and without reference to WSC executive management, despite an agreement that the union would notify the corporation of an intent to have a meeting so that staffing issues can be addressed and permission obtained.
This issue resulted in the police being called sometime last year, because the corporation had not permitted use of the compound on that particular day, according to Gibson.
Addressing administrative leave for Woods, Gibson said that is not a provision in the industrial agreement and is entirely discretionary on the board to either cancel it or renew it annually. Woods, however, insisted yesterday that the agreement provides for administrative leave, which he has been on for the past seven years.
While on administrative leave, Woods is afforded his full WSC salary of approximately $60,000, vacation time, sick leave and full benefits, along with a salary as union president and other perks, according to Gibson.
Gibson noted that when a new WSC board was appointed subsequent to the 2017 general election, Woods requested that his administrative leave continue until the end of his presidency in June 2020.
“The decision was therefore made last May for Mr. Woods to return to his normal duties,” he said.
“Moreover, the demands of the corporation require that Mr. Woods return to the job to assist in the Department of Engineering and Planning, where he is to be transferred from the Sewerage Services Department.”
Woods was initially advised by letter 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, Gibson claimed that, through a series of sick notices, Woods has yet to return to his WSC duties.
Woods said yesterday he filed a dispute to the Labour Board and also filed action in the Supreme Court.
He confirmed that a doctor gave him time off due to stress. Woods said he is now on vacation, which ends on February 28.
Gibson claimed Woods submitted a vacation application to a manager who signed the form without reference to the general manager. Given the circumstances, he said, the general manager wrote Woods advising him that the vacation leave was not properly executed and was thereby rescinded.
Woods has not acknowledged that correspondence, Gibson claimed. The union chairman claimed he never received any correspondence.
Regarding Woods’ bid for a strike vote, Gibson said, “By and large, employees have indicated to management that they cannot—in good conscience—support such an action, given the fact that they too must attend to work daily.
“… We also proposed to Mr. Woods that, if he really feels so strongly about not wanting to return to work, he could retain his administrative leave — just not at any cost to the Bahamian taxpayers.
“WSC would suspend all salary, vacation and sick leave accrual, given that he would be on leave. And, the union can continue to pay his salary and whatever other expenses accrue as a result of his leadership duties.”
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications