On Tuesday, members of the Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU), and the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) workers’ union, demonstrated a “withdrawal of enthusiasm” outside the corporation’s Thompson Boulevard headquarters.
Their concerns were that executives were attempting to minimize the influence of the trade union by blatantly disrespecting, intimidating, victimizing and discriminating against members.
Shortly after this, the water started going off.
WSC Executive Chairman Adrian Gibson said yesterday the corporation’s water supply and sewerage systems were sabotaged.
Around 11 p.m. Tuesday, water supply went off in parts of New Providence, impacting households, Princess Margaret Hospital, Doctors Hospital, Baha Mar and other businesses.
Some areas had supply restored by 6 a.m. However, many areas were still being addressed up to noon.
Gibson blamed union members. The union denied the allegation.
“As I sat here a moment ago, it was reported that the sewer network was also tampered with; as there were lift station overflows at Arawak Cay, Chippingham sewer station, as well as Pinewood Gardens,” said Gibson in the House of Assembly yesterday.
“Mr. Speaker, throughout the night, pressure regulation valve alarms were going off across New Providence.
“This indicated that pressure regulating valves were being shut off throughout the island in a concerted and intentional effort to disrupt the water supply.
“Additionally, [people] threw stones and rocks into the valves to cause irreparable damage, major costs to WSC and untold hardship to our customers.”
BUSAWU President Dwayne Woods yesterday said they would not engage in such activities.
“I would like to say to the nation, the union does not and will never condone wrongdoing,” he said.
“I hear some allegations that there were tampering with valves and stuff made by the chairman but nothing could be further from the truth.
“The union would never do such a thing to put the public [at a disability].”
It would be the greatest coincidence in history if the water supply just spontaneously failed on the day union members indicated they were engaged in a “withdrawal of enthusiasm”.
We think workers should be respected, and agreements between labor and government, or labor and capital, upheld.
When there are disputes, many reasonable mechanisms exist through which to engage. The labor minister could mediate if the union and executive chairman do not get along. The Office of the Prime Minister could get involved. Action could be taken by the union in court.
Bahamians do not support being inconvenienced through the unauthorized disruption of essential services. If businesses do not have water, many have to close. At homes, people can’t flush toilets, or take showers, or do basic cleaning.
The water shutdown is dangerous at hospitals where doctors and nurses are trying to keep sick people alive.
In a civilized society, no one should cut off the water supply in a dispute. That is not a solution to any problem between labor and the government.
We hope police take this matter seriously and try to find those involved. They should be prosecuted.
As for the union and executive chairman, the dislike has been brewing for some time. Cabinet-level intervention is needed to bring order to this relationship. Unnecessary bellicose rhetoric has come from both sides.