By RIEL MAJOR
Tribune Staff Reporter
WATER and Sewerage Management Union (WSMU) President Ednel Rolle on Friday questioned whether the rejection to last week’s strike vote was based in law.
Labour Director John Pinder has claimed the union did not have the two-thirds majority vote required for a strike certificate.
On Friday, the union held a press conference to dispute his assertion, and Mr Rolle demanded proof of the law or act that lists the correct requirements.
Mr Rolle asked: “Is it the Industrial Relations Act or employment law? If the public can’t trust the words and actions of the Director of Labour, where are we going as a nation?”
“The Director of Labour made reference to our constitution for the strike poll. Perhaps he can explain how a meeting for a strike vote is the same as going to the polls. Not every strike poll leads to a strike vote which indicates a strike. A lot of matters are resolved before the members of the union make the ultimate decision. “
The WSMU President said that if the director continues to refuse to provide the strike certificates the only option left will be to take the matter to court.
“The union accepts that this approach by the government is to delay the process of the negotiations. Without our strike certificate we are unable to have our strike vote. (Taking the matter to court) is another delaying tactic,” Mr Rolle claimed.
“Firstly, the court case will cost the Bahamian taxpayers but a cent by the Director of Labour or the executive chairman. Secondly, since the executive chairman’s actions demonstrated that he is still not prepared to operate in good faith, both unions are going to strike together.”
Bahamas Utilities services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) president Dwayne Woods said he would like to clear up any misconceptions conveyed by the Board of Directors that union members have abstained from voting.
Mr Woods said: "During this strike poll held April 17, 205 members of the BUSAWU cast their votes resulting in 157 in support of attaining the Strike Certificate and 48 members voted against it. Out of the 312 members, 107 did not cast a ballot for one reason or the next ranging from being on vacation or sick leave.
"The resulting vote in favour was in the ratio of three to one, had all members voted we predict that the ratio would continue to climb along the same margin of a six to one ratio."
The BUSAWU president claimed that Executive Chairman Adrian Gibson is considered unfit for public office. They are again appealing for his removal.
The WSC board had previously stated that Mr Rolle’s term as leader of WSMU ended in March this year, but he refused to call an election.
Mr Rolle has also demanded a legal explanation for the elections mandated for April 30, 2019 by Mr Pinder.
Obie Ferguson, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) president, said under section 20 sub-section 3 of the Industrial Relations Act the Director of Labour has no authority to call an election or poll.
Mr Ferguson said: "(Mr Pinder) has no authority to hold the certificate, his job is to supervise the poll. Once it is done, he must issue to the union a certificate that certifies how the people voted. He is giving the public the impression that the union is doing something illegal and if they don’t change, we will go to the courts and ask them to do what they did in 2007.
Earlier this week, executives at the Water and Sewerage Corporation claimed that last week’s strike vote by the unions did not meet the requirements to be granted strike certificates.
When contacted Tuesday, Labour Director John Pinder said the Water and Sewerage Management Union (WSMU) did not have the two-thirds majority vote required for a strike certificate.
Mr Pinder said the union representing line staff, the Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU), had the required votes mandated by their industrial agreement; however, he added, the Ministry of Labour will have to certify the votes to say if the process was valid.