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Strike Action 'Still Possible' At Water And Sewerage

By RICARDO WELLS

Tribune Staff Reporter

rwells@tribunemedia.net

BAHAMAS Utilities Service and Allied Workers Union president Dwayne Woods said his union remains focused on “righting” the promotional practices of the Water and Sewerage Corporation as he insisted that a major strike action is “still possible” if all of the union’s grievances are not addressed.

He was addressing claims that talks between the management of Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) and his union this week averted the need for a strike poll at the corporation.

Despite these reports, however, Mr Woods told The Tribune on Friday his union still has several other issues that need to be addressed, such as grievances with the promotional scheme introduced under the tenure of former general manager Glen Laville, and continued under the current management.

He said the procedure, which mandates that employees seeking promotions apply through application, sidesteps promotional practices agreed to during past labour negotiations.

Further to this, Mr Woods said WSC continues to refuse to post a formal organisational chart in view of employees.

He said the chart is supposed to be posted to allow employees to recognise what positions are available at the company, while being given notice of which are currently open.

He said these two factors, when combined with the corporation’s refusal to print and distribute copies of the industrial agreement signed between BUSAWU and WSC, creates an atmosphere on which deserving employees are indirectly overlooked for promotions.

“That’s not right and we want it addressed. Operations have unilaterally varied the promotional procedures to a degree where openings are unknown, and promotions are given to persons connected to those in positions of power,” he told The Tribune.

Mr Woods said despite the “positive” elements that came out of his recent discussions with WSC executive chairman Adrian Gibson and Department of Labour, reality is that only some of BUSAWU’s issues have been addressed.

“I’ve seen the reports and I’ve heard from those involved,” he said, “all is not resolved and all isn’t well. As a union, we can’t just fold up now and say we are good with what has happened. We want completeness and we want what we rightfully deserve.”

Mr Woods continued: “No disrespect to Mr Pinder, but it’s wrong for him to say we don’t have any grounds for strike action, because we were fighting many of these battles before he got into the chair.”

“We designed a new procedure a few years back to ensure that promotions are handled in a decent, (merit-based) manner. Ever since we signed that new procedure, it was getting breached. In fact, since this new board came in with Mr (Adrian) Gibson, it was breached two times for whatever reason - May 2018 and March 2019. (Mr Gibson) knows what I am referring to.

“This was brought to Mr Pinder’s attention when he came in, he instructed the corporation to live up to the promotional procedure we all agreed to. They haven’t. So why should we just let it be?”

Mr Woods added: “All I am saying is, if you are going to do things right and fix it; fix it on all sides and get it right on all sides.”

When asked what would happen if the matter isn’t adequately addressed in the coming weeks, Mr Woods responded: “We’ve been clear on this, our plans have always been and will continue to be public.”

“We aren’t in the business of shocking anyone… our actions will always be known and we will continue to work for our employees at the corporation until we get justice,” he said.

Last week, members of both BUSAWU and the Water & Sewerage Management Union’s (WSMU) president demonstrated outside WSC’s University Drive headquarters in what they called a “withdrawal of enthusiasm”.

The two groups openly condemned what they suggested was the unfair suspension of an employee for five days without pay.

The action was followed later that evening by an extensive shutdown of water supply across the capital.

Mr Gibson blamed the union for the shutdown, suggesting the act was deliberate and in-line with actions to “sabotage” the efforts of WSC. However, Mr Woods has said his union does not condone sabotage and would assist with any investigation into the matter.

Meanwhile, Mr Gibson told the House of Assembly that any employee found to have tampered with the water supply will be “summarily dismissed and referred to the police”.

He has also threatened Mr Woods with a defamation lawsuit, a threat Mr Woods said he does not fear.

“I invite them to go ahead,” he told this newspaper. “They have something to sue me for?”

The dispute led to several rounds of talks this week, when several longstanding issues were addressed.

When contacted Friday, Labour Director John Pinder said he is eager to see where things will go following discussions this past week.

He said as far as he was concerned, the matters placed on the table between the two sides were “concluded.”

Mr Pinder revealed that only the issue of Mr Woods returning to work went “unaddressed.”

“I am of the view that all of their actions have been resolved favourably,” he said. “There is only one issue outstanding that I know of, and that is before the courts so we can’t touch it.”

Moving forward, Mr Pinder said he will continue to communicate with both sides with a view to “maintain a good, working labour relationship.”

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