Minister of Labour Dion Foulkes.
By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
LABOUR Minister Dion Foulkes announced yesterday he has decided to certify the strike vote for the Bahamas Utilities Service and Allied Workers Union which represents line staff at the Water and Sewerage Corporation.
However, Mr Foulkes noted he is seeking legal advice regarding the strike vote of the Water and Sewerage Management Union, adding he did not want to “get into evidence” as the matter “may go to court”.
Speaking to reporters outside the Senate yesterday morning, Mr Foulkes promised he would sign the BUSAWU certificate and make a decision on WMSU later that day.
That meeting of the Senate concluded with the passage of the bills to amend the Securities Industries Act and the Companies Act.
“I have reviewed the case put by both the chairman and the management team at (WSC) and also the facts put by both unions and also the representation made by Mr Obie Ferguson on Friday,” Mr Foulkes said.
“I have decided to certify the strike vote for the line staff union headed by Mr Dwayne Woods. I will sign those certificates today (Monday). So between today and tomorrow both management and the union should receive their certification.
“With respect to the managerial union, I am seeking advice, legal advice on that matter. I hope to have it determined by tomorrow,” he continued. “I know there is some constitutional issues involved in terms of workers that do come out and vote and they should get a determination as soon as possible.
“So hopefully by the end of business today I will make a determination on the managerial union. I don’t want to get into the evidence on both sides, because the matter may go to court as well as it may not. But I do intend to make a decision today with respect to the managerial union.”
Mr Foulkes was also asked how he plans to deal with the issues between the unions, WSC, and Department of Labour. To this, Mr Foulkes said the “respect level” has been restored.
“What we are attempting to do and I think the last two weeks it has been a little better in terms of their communication,” he said. “They did have two relatively productive meetings. It seems as if both sides are talking and I think the respect level has been restored. There was a period there where it was a little bit touchy but I believe that both sides now are talking and I’ve encouraged them so to do.
“And my main function as minister of labour is to ensure that both sides respect each other and that both sides negotiate. And the director of labour and my senior officers down at the department, they’re intimately involved with the talks, and Mr Ranford Patterson, who is our labour consultant, he is also involved.”
Last week, Labour Director John Pinder said WSMU did not have the two-thirds majority vote required for a strike certificate.
During a press conference held Friday, the union disputed his assertion, and WSMU President Ednel 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.