By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
BAHAMAS Utilities Service and Allied Workers Union members have voted in favour of industrial action against the Water and Sewerage Corporation.
Yesterday, 155 BUSAWU members in New Providence and other islands where WSC is present cast ballots in support of a strike while 48 members said they did not agree. It was not clear up to press time whether all of the votes had been counted, however based on the preliminary numbers only 203 of the union’s 318 members took part in the poll.
The Water and Sewerage Management Union (WSMU) simultaneously held a strike vote and 21 managers said they wanted to take some form of industrial action. Fourteen of these members voted against it.
A successful strike poll is part of the requirement for a union to be granted a strike certificate by the Department of Labour.
Ahead of the preliminary ballot count, BUSAWU President Dwayne Woods said majority support would vindicate him in a long battle with the corporation that has now somewhat calmed.
He said he was hopeful that even though the union exercised its right to hold a strike vote, it would not have a bearing on BUSAWU’s relationship with WSC that has recently taken a turn for better.
This comes two days after Mr Woods expressed confidence the strike vote would end successfully.
“This should free me as a leader to know the members are expressing themselves through the votes,” Mr Woods told The Tribune yesterday as members were voting. “I am only doing the wishes of my management.”
He said failure of the water provider’s executives to address long standing industrial issue had taken a toll on staff morale, which he said was at an all-time low.
“The major grievances that we are having the strike poll on today stem from issues that we would have adjudicated at the Labour Department from January 2017. The then director would have advised the corporation to move forward on matters pertaining to posting a hierarchical chart of the corporation which shows existing positions of each employee and it definitely would have showed the vacancies that are existing.
“Stemming from that particular dispute arose the idea of the corporation unilaterally varying the terms and conditions of promotions. We went ahead and formulated a new promotional policy and both the general manager and the president of the union signed on to that policy and that became the new promotional policy procedure.
“Since then a new board would have taken over a new Executive Chairman (Adrian Gibson) and a new general manager who should have known the policy, the general manager I am speaking of, but yet still we have promotional lists coming out not adhering to the promotional procedure policy and the lists are unorthodox meaning they are promoting friends, family and lovers. The hell with others who are deserving and to that the union is saying no.”
He continued: “The Labour Board is saying to them to match similar listings that they would have put out and promoted and give the union the opportunity for deserving members.
“Another item is the union leave, which is the people’s leave and to whomever they deem to be their president. The president is facilitated in that leave for three years and then we go to election every three years.
“After an election is won the president writes the corporation to have that leave renewed and that is why you may hear them saying I haven’t been to work in seven years when in actuality I’ve won the leave for three consecutive terms giving me a nine-year term in office.”
Mr Woods added: “So the corporation is unilaterally varying the terms of the industrial agreement again by revoking the leave or attempting to.
“The industrial agreement says the only way this leave can be taken away is that it has to be mutually agreed upon through a negotiation process.
“So to that the people are now saying they want their leave, they want these promotional procedures to be matched and the union be given equal opportunity for members who should be promoted as well.”