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Water Unions’ Strike Ballot

By KHRISNA RUSSELL

Deputy Chief Reporter

krussell@tribunemedia.net 

BAHAMAS Utilities Service and Allied Workers Union President Dwayne Woods is confident today’s strike poll will successfully show the majority of members are in support of industrial action against the Water and Sewerage Corporation.

Mr Woods confirmed yesterday the union was moving forward with the poll despite relations between it and the corporation taking a turn for the better, adding he had no ill will in his heart for the corporation.

He said he was not concerned about the poll’s success as this was not his will, but the wish of employees who want action and not just promises.

There are 318 people in BUSAWU and the majority of them would have to vote in favour of a strike in order for it to be considered a success.

Union members in Nassau will vote at the corporation on University Drive from 9am to 4pm today. Others on islands where WSC offices are located will also vote as the same time.

The Water and Sewerage Management Union (WSMU) is also holding a strike poll today. Last week, WSMU President Ednel Rolle said his organisation has four outstanding grievances with WSC. 

Yesterday, Labour Director John Pinder said it was never guaranteed that the strike poll would be permitted, adding it will take place only because of the intervention of Labour Minister Dion Foulkes.

This is because Mr Rolle’s tenure as president of WSMU ended last month and he has not yet called an election. In such circumstances, Mr Pinder said, the only power unions have according to the Industrial Relations Act is to call an election. “That’s the only power they have,” he said, “but I was instructed by my minister to conduct the polls as a show of goodwill and good faith.”

Mr Pinder said if Mr Rolle does not set a date for union elections in short order, he will intervene and set the date himself.

Meanwhile, Mr Woods told this newspaper that “the people” asked for a strike poll. 

“This ain’t my wish,” Mr Woods said. “This is the wish of the people. So any time you doing the wishes of the people it is what it is. Only when you pushing your own agenda you have to be concerned about that. I have no qualms about it that it will pass.”

Asked about the relationship between the union and corporation, Mr Woods said the most recent meeting with WSC Executive Chairman Adrian Gibson was amicable.

This comes just two weeks after tensions flared between Mr Woods and Mr Gibson. The Long Island MP announced he instructed his attorney to sue the union chief for defamation relating to untrue statements made about him by Mr Woods.

Mr Gibson had also doubled down on accusations that workers at the utility provider illegally shut off water supply to parts of New Providence and sabotaged WSC property.

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

Mr Woods said yesterday: “My thing is there is no bad blood on behalf of the union and the last meeting we had with the executive chairman, like I say, we left there shaking hands and talking so that’s a good sign.

“I can’t lie and say we parted on bad terms. We didn’t, but that doesn’t mean that the union’s strike vote isn’t inevitable.

“The union has to continue on the road that it’s on until we can see things change within itself. The relationship is getting better, but that doesn’t mean that the wishes of the people won’t be honoured.

“I can’t stop proceeding unless I see the expectations that is expected of the people is being met so the relationship and what is actually happening are two different things.

“So I don’t have ill-will in my heart for the corporation. The relationship is to a point where we are communicating.”

He continued: “Now the results of that communication is what determines the actions of the people not the relationship, results is what needs to be placed on the table moving forward.”

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