Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) employees on Eleuthera are engaged in a sit-out from their offices due to an alleged mold infestation that has spanned several years, Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) President Dwayne Woods said at a union meeting outside WSC headquarters on University Drive yesterday.
Montgomery Miller, one of the two men claiming to be president of the Water and Sewerage Management Union, told reporters at the meeting that the sit-out has been taking place since Monday.
“As I stand here before you, employees of the Water and Sewerage Corporation in Governor’s Harbour, Eleuthera, are sitting outside of a mold-infested, leaking buildin[g],” he said.
“The situation has been going on since 2017 and only as recently as Monday did I, as union president, advise the managers to stay outside of the buildin[g].”
Calling the building “unsafe for human habitation”, Miller claimed that the former general manager approved plans to move employees to another building but that no action has taken place.
“And in the meantime, what have the chairman and the general manager been doing?” he asked.
“They have refurbished the executive suite of the corporation [and] they have upgraded the conference room of the corporation [while] our employees suffer in mold infestation.”
Woods added: “As far as our members are concerned in Eleuthera, both unions are sitting out, away from the mold.
“So, it’s a joint effort in Eleuthera.”
He said the sit-out would likely affect the collection of funds, as the employees will not have a safe place to collect money.
But he said it will not affect water supply on the island.
However, WSC General Manager Elwood Donaldson told The Nassau Guardian yesterday that WSC executives are the ones who told the Eleuthera employees to work “limited hours” if they felt uncomfortable, not the union leaders.
He said that there is no mold in the building as far as he’s aware, but that a move to a new building is already underway as the current office is “probably 30 or more years” old.
“The office in Eleuthera is one that we’ve had for quite some time and it’s aging. So, as a result, right now we are transitioning into a new office that the new landlord that we have been in talks with has just completed and outfitted for us to move,” Donaldson said.
He added, “I guess some [employees] felt it was uncomfortable, so they were working limited hours. We told persons if they are uncomfortable, to do something along those lines, as we are currently transitioning them into the new office.”
As a result, he said there will not be any penalty for those individuals “at this time”.
However, on the other hand, in an email dated March 3 and addressed to Woods, he warned that disciplinary action “including the deduction of pay” would occur, should Woods continue any “interruptions” that he was being accused of.
Miller, meanwhile, claimed he was suspended for two days without pay due to asking WSC executives if the corporation has “been converted from a place of employment to a plantation”.
Both unions are currently engaged in court action with WSC.
A judicial hearing has been set for March 20 regarding who has the authority to act as president of the management union; and an inter partes hearing for an injunction putting an end to strike action has no confirmed date until the judicial hearing takes place.
As the injunction prevents union members from striking, Woods specified yesterday that the meeting was being held during the employees’ lunch hour.
He noted, however, that he is “appealing to the court system to deal with our matter posthaste”.