Industrial woes at WSC continue

Referencing the recent alleged firing of one Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) employee and suspension without pay of another, Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) President Dwayne Woods yesterday suggested the actions were “unfair”.

As the union held a press conference across from the WSC property on University Drive, Woods called for the actions to be reversed “post-haste” and again appealed to Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis to intervene in the ongoing disputes between BUSAWU and WSC.  

“The Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union felt that it was appropriate to remain out of the press during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the corporation has once again allowed a foreign creature to enter into the industrial relations between corporation and the union, with that being a termination of an employee ‘with notice’ as opposed to a termination for cause [or] major breach as outlined in the industrial agreement,” Woods said.

“This action is something not heard of in the government sector especially when you have an industrial agreement in place.”

Woods referred to the terminated employee, Sidney Isaacs, as a “whistleblower”, claiming that the he had raised concerns about a company car seemingly being used for private purposes. 

Isaacs allegedly recorded a video of the incident, and was allegedly “terminated with notice”.

The other employee, Deborah Stubbs, was allegedly suspended without pay for 10 days as of June 9 following allegations that she was video recording activities of the same coworker Isaacs raised concerns about. 

Woods claimed that WSC “went outside of the industrial agreement to levy the disciplinary action” in both instances, and again renewed calls for WSC Executive Chairman Adrian Gibson to be removed from his position.

But in a statement issued yesterday evening, WSC General Manager Elwood Donaldson refuted Woods’ claims.

Donaldson claimed that Isaacs’ termination was because he “abandoned his post, and effectively resigned”.

The general manager acknowledged that Stubbs was suspended without pay “for behavior unbecoming of an employee of WSC”.

However, he claimed that both actions were not contrary to the industrial agreement, and added that WSC executives will be writing to the director of labour today. 

Woods, meanwhile, said the union is “definitely hoping that the prime minister will hear our cry down here in Egypt”.

“It’s been too long that the members and employees at the corporation [have] been suffering and we’ve been coming out…repeatedly, not because we are political, not because we don’t like the executive chairman, it’s because of the unfair treatment within the corporation.”

Woods added, “Up to now, the prime minister was so busy with the pandemic that I figured that was the reason why we couldn’t get his ear.

“But we hope and pray that with the country opening back up now, he sees this press release and responds to us post-haste.”

The union has been at odds with WSC executives for more than a year, repeatedly calling for its executive chairman to be removed and taking strike action as recently as February of this year. 

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

A court injunction was granted to prevent further industrial action, but as court activity was restricted during the COVID-19 pandemic, an inter partes (both sides present) hearing had to be rescheduled for June 19.

Woods said the union feels handicapped by the injunction as it prevents members from withdrawing enthusiasm in protest of their latest concerns, but that the matters have been referred to attorney Wayne Munroe, QC, in the meantime.

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