By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Deputy Chief Reporter
BAHAMAS Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union President Dwayne Woods has accused Adrian Gibson of endangering his life after the Water and Sewerage executive chairman made public a confidential term of the union chief’s employment.
Last week, Mr Gibson said Mr Woods has not performed a day's work for the corporation in years, adding he was paid approximately $60,000 each year despite being on administrative leave.
The statement sparked Mr Woods’ anger yesterday as he told The Tribune Mr Gibson was severely “disingenuous”.
Mr Woods insisted the existing industrial agreement facilitates "union leave" to carry out the people's business.
According to clause 14.01 in the agreement "an employee elected to a permanent union office which requires union leave maybe granted such leave as the corporation determines for a period not exceeding 36 months subject to the demands of the service and the availability of a suitable replacement, and shall continue to be covered by the corporation's medical and pension plans."
Mr Woods said: "First and foremost, I would like to say that I was of the view that my salary was confidential information and I would like to acknowledge the fact that in breaching this confidentiality agreement of the corporation I am baffled or surprised that the chairman would do such a thing,” Mr Woods said.
“I would like to make it abundantly clear that he is probably only doing it to endanger my life and the life of my family. It is disingenuous for the chairman to make such a statement and nothing could be further from the truth.
“What is actually happening is the chairman is playing brilliant politics.
“What he is doing is actually putting up a smoke screen and mirror by saying that I don’t work and haven’t performed a day work for the Water and Sewerage Corporation in years.”
Regarding his administrative leave for the past seven years, Mr Woods said he was completely within the confines of the standing industrial agreement, having been elected three times to the post of union president.
“The reality of the matter is that he is attempting to roll back the very benefits that are contained in the industrial agreement between the Bahamas Utility Services and Allied Workers Union and the Water and Sewerage Corporation under article number 14.01.
“That particular article gives rise to a leave called union leave which is a benefit unto the people I represent. It speaks to an employee being elected to permanent office for a period of three years or 36 months subject to the demands of service and a suitable replacement. That it would continue with all the benefits that an employee would enjoy.
“That particular clause gives rise to me being off to do the work of the people, to the people, for the people, by the people.”
According to Mr Woods, the leave has been practised for several years.
“The benefit has been in practise for 11 to 13 years. The past president enjoyed two terms and myself, I have enjoyed two terms and I’m in the middle of a third. It makes it clear that the benefit can only be reversed by mutual agreement and the chairman cannot roll it away unilaterally because there is a contract in place which governs it.
“This raises the question why would the executive chairman attempt to change the rules of the game in the middle of the game a year and a half after the union had sent a letter to them requesting a renewal of the benefit?
“The renewal is not an approval but a mere courtesy to outline to the board of directors that an election was held and the now president has retained his position as president. Had I lost the election another president would be writing to inform the corporation of the courtesy that I have gone back to work and a new president is coming in to enjoy my leave.
“I would conclude by saying that the only way I am allowed to give up the leave and go back to work is if a new president unseats me and the new president will retain the comfort of the leave.
He further raised questions regarding Mr Gibson’s appointment at the corporation.
“I’d like to raise the question who does the chairman represent? He represents the government. What is his salary as executive chairman? What is his salary as an MP and how much hours does he put in as an executive board member? And how much hours does he put in at the corporation?”
Last Sunday Mr Gibson said the industrial agreement did not make provisions for Mr Woods’ leave.
The WSC executive chairman said at the time “unlike any other union president in The Bahamas”, Mr Woods draws an annual salary of some $60,000, accrues vacation time and sick leave, the latter of which adds up and rolls over, and “enjoys all the benefits” without ever coming to work.
That, Mr Gibson said, is notwithstanding the $2,000 or so Mr Woods “pays himself” as the union’s president, and the other “perks” he enjoys such as the union paying for his cellphone, airfare “whenever and wherever he travels”, and allegedly gasoline for his vehicles.
Mr Gibson said Mr Woods has also requested yearly increments and additional benefits, promotions and/or upward mobility, despite not having a job description and therefore being “unable to have his performance evaluated in the absence of any WSC job-related performance/activities”.
The Long Island MP said at the time that due to the “simply unjust and unfair” practice of Mr Woods being paid $60,000 plus perks without performing any work for WSC, the corporation decided as of last year May not to renew his administrative leave, and to order Mr Woods back to work.
Mr Woods, in turn, has filed a Supreme Court action against the corporation, the crux of which, according to Mr Gibson, is that he feels he should not return to work and continue being paid by WSC.
However, Mr Gibson said the corporation has instructed its attorneys to seek to strike out the BUSAWU’s writ of summons as the matters stated therein are personal to Mr Woods and consequently, the union has no capacity to bring that action before the courts.
The revelations were made during a press conference at WSC headquarters in which Mr Gibson responded to Mr Woods’ statements on Friday concerning, amongst other things, WSC’s alleged denial of his administrative leave and the free usage of office space for union meetings.