By NICO SCAVELLA
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE union representing workers at the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) has threatened to commence a “withdrawal of enthusiasm” if the corporation does not withdraw its alleged intent to dismiss three union employees over allegations they stole a fire hydrant from WSC premises.
Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) President Dwayne Woods, during a press conference on Friday, said the union will leave “no stone unturned” in its bid to resolve what he said the union contends is a “very contentious and vexatious” issue.
Similarly, Mr Woods called on WSC’s various stakeholders, executives and its board of directors to “step in and resolve” these matters by December 28, when the union is scheduled to meet with WSC on the matter.
If not, Mr Woods said what was initially a “warning shot across the bow” will mature into the union utilising its “greatest weapon” to ensure those embattled workers keep their jobs.
He delivered this message to WSC customers: “We’d like to apologise to you for any inconvenience that may be caused during this season.”
During a press conference in front of the corporation’s headquarters on Friday, Mr Woods claimed WSC has accused three of the union’s members of stealing a fire hydrant from the corporation’s premises, and they are subsequently pegged for dismissal.
Mr Woods also provide the press with a copy of an investigative report by the corporation’s Internal Control & Compliance Department (ICC), which claimed that three employees, “acting together, removed a corporation asset (fire hydrant) off the premises without having the proper authorisation and therefore committed theft in the process.”
According to the report, on November 22, the ICC initially learned of an alleged theft of a WSC fire hydrant from an executive that was reported by an anonymous individual.
The alleged incident was said to have occurred on Sunday, November 19 involving four WSC employees, one of whom is an “operational intern,” who had been authorised to clean up the corporation’s stores stockyard.
A woman subsequently visited the location where the anonymous individual stated the hydrant was placed. She confirmed that a fire hydrant was at the location, however, it was reportedly removed “before arrangements could be made to retrieve the hydrant.”
The report ultimately found that the three of the four accused, acting together, committed a “major breach” according to Article 24.04 of the Industrial Agreement. The ICC said it did not review any evidence that the operational intern was involved in the alleged incident.
Launching the union’s counterclaims however, Mr Woods provided the press with a copy of a WSC “goods returned note,” which he said purports to show that on November 29, ten days after the alleged theft occurred, WSC management requested one of the three accused employees to return one “fire hydrant-dry barrel” to the corporation’s inventory.
“Now they need to explain where that one come from,” Mr Woods said, referring to the one fire hydrant requested to be returned.
Mr Woods also said the report notes that on November 20, a store manager “confirmed and counted” 18 fire hydrants in the stockyard. It was also confirmed on that same date, 18 fire hydrants were available in the inventory system.
Mr Woods said the union is “baffled” as to why WSC is attempting to dismiss three of its members “on a matter of trust when nothing is missing.”
He called for the corporation to allow the union’s members to work in “harmony and in peace” during the Christmas holidays.
“One of our members has been off for some 20 days pending investigation with pay and he’s just recently returned to work — just yesterday (Thursday),” Mr Woods added. “We’re saying well thank God he’s been returned to work. But they’re threatening the fact that he along with two others will be dismissed. And the union is saying that is a ‘no, no,’ that is a creature we will not allow back into this organisation at any time.
“...Again I contend that the corporation have to do what they got to do, and the union got to do what they got to do. But please I beg the corporation not to push the union to that state.”
National Congress of Trade Unions Bahamas (NCTUB) President Bernard Evans, present at the press conference, voiced his support of the BUSAWU’s efforts.
“We are here to support (Mr Woods) 100 per cent and to let the stakeholders know they’re not dealing with one union alone, you’re dealing with the entire union movement.
“. . . We hope that they would find the good sense to bring closure to this before the 28th of December, because I certainly need my water on. I’m not saying they’re going to turn the water off, but we don’t need this kind of foolishness going on in the country at this stage.”
Last week, The Tribune reported that police have been called in to review files of the internal investigation at WSC, which began as a theft probe but has since turned up other “sensitive matters.”
WSC Chairman Adrian Gibson told reporters at the time he made the decision to file a formal complaint with police after consultation with Works Minister Desmond Bannister.
At the time, Mr Gibson said five people have been sent on leave since investigations began; however, he said three of those had since returned to work.
When asked by reporters about theft, the Long Island MP said there was an alleged theft of items and when asked the value, he said in the “thousands of dollars.”
He added that there were several “offshoots” that were of grave concern.
On Friday, Mr Woods said to the best of his knowledge, the matter the union is contesting has been turned over to police.
“I was told this matter was turned over to the police, but up to now I haven’t seen one, and my members haven’t seen one,” he said.