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WSC unions plan to strike today

Managerial and line staff at The Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) are set to begin industrial action this morning, according to Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) President Dwayne Woods.

“Basically, we met with them (technical operation staff) to bring them up to date on the issues that we would’ve presented last week to the corporation,” Woods told The Nassau Guardian yesterday.

“That section of the corporation has decided to take a position that they will support strike action and we would’ve signed an agreement with the management union, who also has issues, that we would collectively start strike action.”

Asked what will happen this morning, Woods replied, “Well, basically tomorrow (Tuesday) you will see both unions — the management union and the non-management union — jointly taking a stand to support strike action moving forward until either the chairman is removed or our concerns are addressed and addressed properly.”

Yesterday, WSC warned employees about taking industrial action.

“This morning, the management of the Water and Sewerage Corporation was informed that BUSAWU President Dwayne Woods has incited staff members to walk off of the job in an illegal industrial action,” the corporation said in a statement.

“Such an action is illegal and, given the same, WSC would be obliged to cut the salaries of all employees who leave their posts unmanned in a disruptive, illegal industrial action spurred on by Mr. Woods.”

It added, “Mr. Woods should be minded that he is also a non-management employee of the corporation and that, should he continue to disrupt the workplace and continually fail to report for duty, he, too, will be subject to disciplinary action (cut in pay, etc). Mr. Woods is obligated to the Corporation and, by extension the taxpayers, to work for eight hours per day.”

BUSAWU members voted to strike last April

Among the union’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; alleged “micromanagement” from Gibson hampering employees and management from performing effectively; failure to comply with stage four of the grievance procedure; responsibility allowance payment being discontinued; “heartless” deduction of salary for travel allowance; “unfamiliar method of promotion”; the “structural collapse” of human resources due to absences in management, and that WSC executives have yet to submit a counter-proposal to the union’s proposed new industrial agreement, which it submitted last May.

“WSC is aware that Mr. Woods holds a strike certificate,” WSC said yesterday.

“The corporation does not wish for its staff to engage in a strike; however, if Mr. Woods seeks to prompt his members to walk off of the job, he can only do so by invoking that strike certificate and he must proffer legitimate grounds for such a strike.”

It added, “The corporation respects the work of unions and wishes to act in and to protect the interest of our employees; however, it is expected that union business is conducted on the lunch break and/or before or after working hours.

“Moreover, the union is aware that they liaise with the corporation and request permission to hold events/meetings on the corporation’s compound.

“WSC has been informed of repeated disruptive meetings held by Mr. Woods at our New Providence operations compound —one as recent as this morning—that has resulted in employees being 1.5 to two hours late and/or failing to report for duty. This is valuable time that belongs to the corporation (and to taxpayers) and time that should not, at any time, be lost to ad-hoc union meetings.”

The corporation said it intends to file a trade dispute with the Department of Labour “given the consistent and total disruption” by Woods.

Managerial union

In an internal memo, which was obtained by The Guardian, WSC described the Water and Sewerage Managerial Union (WSMU) as being “at a crossroads”.

“[A]s such, WSC has been unable to recognize either of the two persons asserting their right to the presidency,” it noted.

The corporation added, “In recent time, Mr. Ednel Rolle and his executives filed an action in the Supreme Court. That action asserted that the recent elections were illegitimate and that the result of the election was thereby illegitimate.

“This is an extant matter that is currently before the court, that is sub judice and subject to judicial review and determination.”

WSC said it awaits the court ruling to determine which president to recognize.

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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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