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BUSAWU: Strike only postponed

Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) workers reported back to work yesterday after having been on strike since last Tuesday.

However, Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) President Dwayne Woods claimed the strike is not over but merely “postponed”.

Chief Justice Brian Moree on Friday granted an injunction ending the strike action that day.

The parties in the matter are due to appear before the chief justice next Monday when he will decide whether to continue the injunction.

Woods confirmed that WSC workers are complying with the injunction.

“You know, we respect the Supreme Court and the laws of the land, so we advised our members to return to work this morning,” Woods said yesterday.

He added, “At that hearing, Chief Justice Moree saw the need to dig deeper into this matter and see why the corporation is claiming that we are a public threat, or that we are a threat to the public’s interest.

“In all of his wisdom, he granted a temporary injunction for us to return to work. So, in a nutshell, as far as the BUSAWU and the management union is concerned, this was a stay of execution for the corporation.”

Woods was referring to a notice from Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes on Wednesday that the dispute had been referred to the Industrial Tribunal as the strike action “threatened the public interest”.

The Industrial Relations Act mandates that any person participating in a strike action must “discontinue” that action once the matter is referred to the Industrial Tribunal.

However, BUSAWU members continued to strike even after receiving that notice, with Woods calling the letter a “blatant attack on our civic rights as workers in this country”.

“Until the 24th of this month, Chief Justice Moree will give his ruling and we are confident, overconfident, that the Lord will have his way and the victory will be granted to the people,” Woods said.

“Justice delayed is justice denied.”

He added: “The strike is not over, it is simply postponed.”

The union’s primary demands have been for WSC Executive Chairman Adrian Gibson to be removed from his post and for a new industrial agreement to be signed.

Among the union’s other outstanding issues to date are overtime and holiday pay for post-Hurricane Dorian work; shift premium pay; the alleged hiring of new employees without existing employees having been given a chance to be promoted; docked salary for travel expenses; and removal of allowances for certain employees.

Several of the concerns have been publicly addressed by WSC, which has claimed that overtime pay for post-hurricane work was being abused; accused Woods of attempting to bypass the appropriate grievance process as well as attempting to interfere with the corporation’s hiring and promotion exercises; and insisted it is “feverishly working on” a counter proposal.

Additionally, Gibson has dismissed calls for his removal, saying that he serves at the pleasure of the prime minister.

During contribution in the House of Assembly yesterday, he addressed the ongoing dispute as he slammed Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis’ recent call for him to be fired as “disingenuous” considering one union’s expired agreement was at an impasse since the last Christie administration.

“The member (Davis) met with the managers’ union several times during his tenure, yet nothing was signed,” Gibson said.

He added, “It is clear that there appears to be a political arrangement in the background of all of this. Politics should never motivate union actions, yet, unfortunately, it often does.”

Gibson also accused Woods of having a personal agenda due to not having demands for items such as a promotion, a company car and extended administrative leave.

Woods, however, refuted those claims and said the union would like to tell Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis that “business and pleasure don’t mix”.

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