The overwhelming majority of line staff and managers at the Water and Sewerage Cooperation (WSC) who took part in a strike vote yesterday agreed to strike, according to Director of Labour John Pinder.
Pinder said the results were unofficial and only reflected votes in New Providence, as the department was still awaiting numbers from the Family Islands up to press time.
One hundred and six line staff workers voted yes and 29 voted no, Pinder said.
Of the managerial staff who voted, 21 opted to strike and 14 opted not to strike.
Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) President Dwayne Woods said that based on the temperature of the union, he was “confident that the end result would be a resounding yes.”
The line staff union has 318 members.
Woods said while recent talks with the WSC board have been fruitful, there are still several outstanding issues that required the union take a strike vote.
“The talks that we had was in relation to the straw that [broke] the camels back, which was the last two suspensions of two of our members,” Woods said.
“I’m proud to announce that the lines of communication has been opened and it appears to be an amicable relationship that was established at those three meetings that we had and I look forward to that relationship to be everlasting.
“The union is definitely extending the olive branch to the chairman for that relationship to continue.
“But truth be told, we had a host of matters that we got no movement on before the suspension and that’s why I say the suspension was the straw that broke the camels back. And those are the matters that we are out here today to deal with.”
Woods said these issues include the refusal of the corporation to post the hierarchical structure of the corporation showing position vacancies, the corporation’s promotional policies and the corporation’s revocation of the union’s leave.
“Those are three matters that we have on the ballet for contention this afternoon,” he said.
“We look forward to a successful vote and we would hope that we don’t have to use the strike certificate when it is gained in any which way, and we hope that would bring the corporation’s executive team and its executive board back to the table so that we can communicate again and get some resolution.”
Water and Sewerage Management Union (WSMU) President Ednel Rolle said yesterday that he also expected an overwhelming vote in favor of a strike.
The WSMU has a total of 62 members.
Rolle noted that talks between the corporation regarding his union’s industrial agreement have been completely stalled and there remains contention between the two parties.
“The key concern is our industrial agreement,” he said.
“It’s been going on too long. It needs to resolved and [WSC Chairman Adrian Gibson’s] refusal to deal with it is not sitting well with us.”
According to Rolle, the union’s 2013 industrial agreement expired in June 2018.
However, that agreement was never signed because of a clause that gives the union the first right of refusal of outsourced work.
He noted that no negotiations on a new industrial agreement have started.
“All we are saying is sign the existing agreement so we can get on to this new one,” he said.
When asked whether a strike is the go-to plan for the union, Rolle said, “Your strike is your last option. All a strike poll speaks to is the intent. If no negotiations happen, as is presently since the guy enjoys not negotiating, then it becomes plan A.
“Our thing is first and foremost, you negotiate in good faith. That unfortunately is something that he has a problem with. He [doesn’t] know what good faith is.
“But I would hope that at the end of the day, [as] they say, cooler heads prevail.”
Speaking on the union’s relationship with the chairman, Rolle continued, “As far as we are concerned, we say that we are supposed to have a cordial relationship.
“I think our problem, we find, is that his attitude is more egotistical than willing to say, ‘Listen, let’s see how best we can solve this matter.’”
Rolle said the 14-day cool off period after the strike vote will be the time for the corporation to come to the table and negotiate in good faith.
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications