The managerial and line staff unions at the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) have filed for a strike vote application amid ongoing tensions at the corporation, Trade Union Congress President Obie Ferguson said yesterday.
The two unions, the Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) and the Water and Sewerage Management Union (WSMU) have locked horns with management at the corporation in recent weeks.
The management of WSC, BUSAWU and the director of labor met at the Department of Labour on Monday in an attempt to bring a resolution to the issues between the union and the corporation.
But Ferguson said the unions filed for a strike vote the next day.
“I know there is a strike vote filed, I think yesterday, on the minister of labor asking him to conduct a poll for the purposes of ascertaining the wishes of the members as to a strike, but I would advise or suggest to the both sides to sit down and resolve it,” Ferguson said.
He added, “…It’s in the interest of the union and it’s in the interest of the workers that that matter be disposed of.
“The court is not there to resolve emotional situations. One goes to court when there is a legal issue involved.
“The labor situation should be so structured where if there is a bargain impasse between parties, there should be a place that they can go. In The Bahamas, you know, we don’t like to do things like that. We like to pretend to know everything, and we get nothing done.
“So, I would be more than happy to sit as a mediator for that dispute to see whether we can’t find resolution, and there’s nothing, in my humble opinion, that cannot be resolved as long as there is a willingness to resolve it.”
Last Tuesday, amid a “withdrawal of enthusiasm” by BUSAWU members, water supply went off in many parts of New Providence, impacting households, Princess Margaret Hospital, Doctor’s Hospital, Baha Mar and numerous businesses.
Earlier that day, BUSAWU members demonstrated outside WSC’s Thompson Boulevard headquarters.
Their concerns were that executives were attempting to minimize the influence of the representative trade union by blatantly disrespecting, intimidating, victimizing and discriminating against union members.
According to BUSAWU President Dwayne Woods, one of the union’s primary concerns was the recent five-day suspension of a union member for leaving his personal vehicle on WSC grounds over the weekend.
Additionally, Woods claimed that “friends, family and lovers” at the corporation have been promoted over hard-working employees.
However, he later apologized for that comment.
The WSC board said that in addition to the loss of water supply, sewer stations and lift stations were “also tampered with and fuses were removed from control panels, which prohibited the start-up of pumps and thereby resulted in sewerage overflows”.
The board described the incident as “criminal” and said it was “committed by persons who clearly lack integrity and a real commitment to WSC”.
BUSAWU has denied the allegation.
The various parties have been in ongoing talks since then, but it is unclear whether significant progress has been made towards resolving their differences.