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Woods calls for PM to intervene in WSC ‘battle’

Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) President Dwayne Woods yesterday called on Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis to resolve the union’s “battle” with executives at the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC).

“We’d like to appeal to the prime minister in his good grace to come out and resolve this battle because it appears as though the minister has already made a public statement that he supports Adrian Gibson,” Woods told The Nassau Guardian.

“That is very concerning to the union that Adrian Gibson would come on record publicly and breach the industrial agreement and still, the minister would support him.”

Last week, Woods said the union was upset due to delayed negotiations for a new industrial agreement with the corporation, noting that he was “appalled by the behavior” of WSC executives, particularly WSC Executive Chairman Adrian Gibson and General Manager Elwood Donaldson.

Following Woods’ comments, Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister praised the work of both Gibson and Donaldson.

“The executive chairman of the Water and Sewerage [Corporation] is doing a fantastic job, as is the director,” Bannister said on February 6.

“We have to provide a service to the Bahamian people and you have to be assured that you’re going to get a reliable water supply. Our staff at Water and Sewerage, I believe that the majority of them understand and appreciate how much we value them.”

On Thursday, WSC accused Woods of launching “baseless, uncivil, erroneous and unfounded attacks” against Gibson and Donaldson.

It said it had received reports that Woods was “encouraging staff throughout the islands to engage in an illegal sickout on Thursday and Friday of this week”.

“If this illegal action is undertaken by staff members, it is expected that these staff members provide the corporation with a sick note; subject themselves to inspection by the corporation’s industrial nurse; and, failing the above, WSC would be left with no choice but to deduct the time from staff pay,” WSC said in a statement.

Yesterday, Woods questioned why the corporation would have an issue with employees taking sick leave as mandated by the most recent industrial agreement.

“I can’t see why somebody would be deducted simply because anybody who is in our union has a clause within the industrial union [that] said they can take as much as two days’ sick leave and call in,” he said.

“Once they call in, they wouldn’t need a medical certification and the corporation by law cannot deduct anything off their salaries. That is part of the industrial agreement and it’s a benefit underneath the industrial agreement.

“The main reason why the union is taking industrial action is simply because the executive chairman and the general manager [are] attempting to roll back the same set benefits.”

The union president denied being aware of any plan for WSC employees to stage a sickout today.

“I’ll know on Monday how they feel and that will be illustrated in whether they show up to work tomorrow,” he said.

“I have no knowledge of a sickout or anybody being sick because I’m at home.”

Among BUSAWU’s concerns are the alleged failure of the corporation to pay employees for overtime work – including on Abaco “in unsavory and unsanitary conditions” in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian – and alleged “micromanagement” from Gibson hampering employees and management from performing effectively, to name a few.

WSC has detailed alleged abuse of overtime work on Abaco, warning that disciplinary action is expected to follow, as well as abuse of responsibility allowance, claiming this was the reason it was discontinued.

It also accused Woods of attempting to bypass the grievance process, of trying to interfere in the corporation’s promotion exercises and of making “baseless” comments about Gibson.

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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