Any Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) employee who engages in an “illegal sickout” will have their pay deducted, WSC executives warned after the Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) said it is working under “reduced enthusiasm”.
On Wednesday, BUSAWU President Dwayne Woods said the union was upset due to delayed negotiations for a new industrial agreement with the corporation.
He said he was “appalled by the behavior” of WSC executives, particularly WSC Executive Chairman Adrian Gibson and General Manager Elwood Donaldson.
But in a scathing rebuttal, WSC slammed Woods’ “sudden, ill-advised and unreasonable press conference”.
“Notably, the non-management union president also used the occasion to launch baseless, uncivil, erroneous and unfounded attacks upon our Executive Chairman [Adrian Gibson] and General Manager [Elwood Donaldson],” WSC said in a statement.
“WSC rejects, in its entirety, those groundless assertions.”
WSC accused Woods of resuming work last June after his salary was allegedly disrupted “for failure to report for duty”, and said: “Given his return to work, it is expected that Mr. Woods would observe the daily work schedule of the corporation, working a full eight hours and refraining from being disruptive during working hours.
“At no time has the corporation’s executives sought to ignore, disregard or disrespect our employees.
“Mr. Woods’ assertion that the corporation has sought to roll back benefits in our (WSC/BUSAWU) industrial agreement — which binds and governs both parties — is completely and patently false.”
It added, “This evening (Wednesday), we received reports that Mr. Woods is 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.”
Woods announced that BUSAWU would continue to “up the ante” until its concerns are resolved.
He also warned that a strike certificate the union already has would be used “in short order”, adding that the action could result in “a total shutdown from Bimini to Inagua”.
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; alleged “micromanagement” from Gibson hampering employees and management from performing effectively; failure to comply with stage 4 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 addressed each of these in its press release.
It 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.
As the corporation claimed it is “feverishly working on our counter proposal”, it said: “Mr. Woods’ commentary related to the chairman are baseless and, frankly, demonstrate a discourteous penchant on [his] part to engage in unseemly and unsuitable interchanges.
“We hope that he raises the level of his dialogue as we seek to endeavor to foster and deepen an environment of productivity, progress and harmony at WSC.”