Foulkes to seek legal advice on WSMU strike vote
Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes said yesterday that he will certify the Water and Sewerage Corporation’s (WSC) line staff union’s strike vote, but said he will seek legal advice on whether the managerial union is eligible to receive certification.
Both unions recently held strike polls to address longstanding issues with the WSC board.
Following the polls, Director of Labour John Pinder indicated that the Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) had the required votes for a strike certificate, but the Water and Sewerage Management Union (WSMU) did not.
The unions held a joint press conference on Friday hitting out at Pinder and warned that they would strike together.
Speaking to reporters in the foyer of the Senate, Foulkes said, “I have reviewed the case put by both the chairman and the management team at the Water and Sewerage [Corporation] and also the facts put by both unions and also the representation made by Mr. Obie Ferguson on Friday.
“I have decided to certify the strike vote for the line staff union, headed by Mr. Dwayne Woods.
“I will sign those certificates today. So between today and tomorrow, both management and the union should receive their certification.
“With respect to the managerial union, I am seeking advice, legal advice, on that matter.
“I hope to have it determined by tomorrow.
“I know there’s some constitutional issues involved, in terms of workers that do come out and vote, and they should get a determination as soon as possible.
“So hopefully by the end of business today I will make a determination on the managerial union.
“I don’t want to get into the evidence on both sides because the matter may go to court as well as it may not. But I do intend to make a decision today with respect to the managerial union.”
Of the managerial staff who voted, 23 opted to strike and 14 opted not to strike, according to Pinder.
The WSMU has a total of 62 members.
WSMU President Ednel Rolle has called on the director of labor to produce the law or act he is relying on to come to the decision that the managerial union did not have enough votes.
“The union accepts that the approach by the government currently is to delay the process of negotiations,” he said on Friday.
“Without our strike certificates we are not able to have our strike vote.
“If the director refuses to provide them the only recourse will be to take the matter to court, which is another delaying tactic.
“But take note firstly that a court case will not cost the director of labor nor the executive chairman a red penny, but it will cost the Bahamian taxpayer.
“And secondly, since the executive chairman’s actions demonstrate that he is still not prepared to operate in good faith, after we get the strike certificate, both unions are going on strike together.”
The WSMU’s main issue is their expired industrial agreement and a contentious relationship with the WSC board, which have stalled negotiations.
When asked yesterday about the deteriorating state of relations between the board and the unions, Foulkes said, “I think the last two weeks has been a little better in terms of their communication.
“They did have two relatively productive meeting. It seems as if both sides are talking and I think the respect level has been restored.
“It was a period there where it was a little bit touchy, but I believe that both sides are now talking and I’ve encouraged them to do so.
“My main function as minister of labor is to ensure that both sides respect each other and that both sides negotiate.”
Education: Vrije Universiteit Brussel (University of Brussels), MA in Mass Communications