Court orders end to WSC strike

Chief Justice Brian Moree has granted an injunction ending strike action at the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC).

The injunction was sought by the corporation after the striking workers refused to go back to work even though the unions were informed that the minister of labour had referred the matter to the Industrial Tribunal.

Under Article 76 of the Industrial Relations Act, if the minister considers that the public interest is affected or threatened by a strike, he may refer the dispute that gave rise to the action to the Industrial Tribunal for settlement and shall notify the parties in writing.

Under law, it is the duty of those participating in a strike to discontinue it once this occurs.

Members of the Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) have been on strike since Tuesday.

On February 6, they announced they would be operating on work-to-rule, and reportedly some members participated in a sickout on February 7 and 10.

Their 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.

The previous agreement expired in June 2018, and although the union claims it submitted a new proposal in May, it has yet to receive a counter proposal.

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.

WSC executives, on the other hand, have addressed a number of the concerns via press releases.

They claimed that overtime pay for post-hurricane work was being abused, and they also accused BUSAWU President Dwayne Woods of attempting to bypass the appropriate grievance process as well as attempting to interfere with the corporation’s hiring and promotion exercises.

They also said recently that they were “feverishly working on our counter proposal”.

Gibson, who has repeatedly dismissed calls for his removal, warned that WSC employees who engaged in the sickout and also in the “illegal strike” will have their pay docked.

However, attorney Obie Ferguson – president of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) – on Thursday argued that “this union is acting properly”.

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

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