Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) President Dwayne Woods said yesterday that last week’s issues at Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) have been resolved.
However, he said that a strike vote is still on the table for separate issues.
“We toiled Monday and Wednesday to come to an agreement, and finally I’m glad to say that both sides have reached an agreement that we both can live with, so I’d like to thank the executive chairman and his board of directors along with the director of labor,” he said.
Woods added, “We are talking, and the meeting went so well this morning that I don’t want to damage the relationship.
“I want that relationship to remain intact… We haven’t met in a year and nine months, and in two days of meeting we were laughing and shaking hands and we parted on that note this morning, me and the executive chairman.”
BUSAWU and the Water and Sewerage Management Union (WSMU) have locked horns with management at the corporation in recent weeks over several issues.
Of particular concern was the suspension of an employee for five days without pay for leaving his vehicle parked on WSC grounds for several days.
The management of WSC, BUSAWU and the director of labor met several times this week in an attempt to bring a resolution to the issues.
Woods said that the suspension matter was resolved after the employee accepted a suspension of three days instead.
“We struggled so long simply because we felt that the suit of the penalty must be cut to fit the breach of the discipline, and so that’s what took two days of negotiation, to come to a conclusion,” he said.
Woods noted, however, that Tuesday’s strike vote application was in relation to other issues stemming from 2017.
“What happened is that we would have filed a dispute in 2017, I think January, and it was in relation to the promotional procedures, unilateral variation of the promotional procedure,” he said.
Woods said the union and corporation signed a new promotional procedure at the time, but that it has been breached twice since then with “unorthodox promotional exercises”.
“That brings a sense of chaos to the corporation, so it is against that backdrop that we filed,” he said.
Woods said the strike vote does not mean that a strike will happen, but that they hope to secure a certificate “just in case” the matter cannot be resolved.
Last Tuesday, BUSAWU members demonstrated outside WSC’s Thompson Boulevard headquarters in a “withdrawal of enthusiasm”.
In addition to the suspension matter, 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.
Additionally, they claimed that “friends, family and lovers” at the corporation have been promoted over hard-working employees.
Later that night, water supply went off in many parts of New Providence, impacting households, Princess Margaret Hospital, Doctor’s Hospital, Baha Mar and numerous businesses.
The WSC board said that 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”.
BUSAWU has denied its involvement, and Woods said that the union does not support that sort of action.
“We don’t condone wrongdoing, and we never authorized anybody to do such a thing,” he said.
He added, “If anybody is caught doing such a thing, we would stand in an arrangement with the government, stakeholders of the corporation and the union to bring the culprits to justice.”