By MORGAN ADDERLEY
Tribune Staff Reporter
LABOUR Minister Dion Foulkes confirmed yesterday that he has signed the strike certificate for the Water and Sewerage Management Union — and therefore both Water and Sewerage Corporation unions are now in possession of strike certificates.
This paves the way for strike action at the water provider.
WSMU president Ednel Rolle and Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) president Dwayne Woods held a joint press conference yesterday afternoon to express thanks to their members and the Ministry of Labour for the achievement.
The union presidents also confirmed that they both have meetings with the corporation set for May 7 to negotiate key outstanding issues.
For WSMU, this is primarily the signing of an industrial agreement. For BUSAWU, the three major issues include the “failure” of the corporation to “adhere to the promotional procedure,” WSC’s “failure” to post an organisational chart displaying which positions are filled, and the breach of an agreement that concerns union member’s leave from WSC.
Mr Woods, who represents the line staff, told reporters yesterday that he is “going to the table in good faith” and with optimism.
He also said he hopes the present relationship between the union and WSC can be enhanced to the point “where the strike certificate will not have to be used”.
Contention has been brewing between the unions and the WSC executive board for some time.
When asked if WSC executive chairman Adrian Gibson is sympathetic to union concerns, Mr Rolle suggested “ego” is part of the problem and added the chairman “does not see a lot of people as his equal”.
On Monday, Mr Foulkes announced his decision to certify the strike vote for BUSAWU. However, he noted he was seeking legal advice regarding the WSMU strike vote and promised to make a decision on WSMU later that day.
Speaking to reporters outside Cabinet on Tuesday, Mr Foulkes said: “I just want to give an update on the (WSC) situation. Yesterday I signed the strike certificate for the line staff union. And today, this morning actually, I signed the strike certificate for the managerial union.
“I had discussions with the Attorney General’s Office, also with the director of labour, and also with the executive chairman of [WSC] to come to a determination. And we thought that that was the right thing to do. But notwithstanding the fact that both strike certificates have been issued, I want to encourage both sides to please sit down and talk, to give a little bit, and see if you can reach a resolution to the issues on both sides.”
Mr Foulkes said there has been an improved relationship between the unions and WSC executives and he is hopeful an amicable resolution to issues can be reached.
During the press conference, Mr Woods said: “It is our hope that we can enhance the present relationship to the point where the strike certificate will not have to be used, as advised by the minister of labour.”
When asked what the likelihood of his union taking any form of industrial action is, Mr Woods said it is “all up to the corporation,” adding his union is “extending the olive branch.”
“We are here and we are here extending the olive branch, although they may say we don’t or we are disingenuous, we want them to know that we are extending the olive branch from the depths of our heart.
“But we have problems. And you can’t expect us to extend the olive branch today and then you create a bone of contention tomorrow and then you make it look like the union is the villain.”
When asked if there is a timeline before the union makes a decision to take action, Mr Woods said WSC has already sent out an invitation for a meeting, which is scheduled for May 7.
Mr Rolle, meanwhile, addressed the controversy surrounding his union’s strike poll. Last week, Labour Director John Pinder said WSMU did not have the two-thirds majority vote required for a strike certificate.
“I think the ministry looked at the law, when they looked at the law they realised the union is in its rights,” Mr Rolle said. “And what I admire about them is when they [found] out they as wrong, they fixed it and they issued our strike certificate and there’s honour in them. I so hope that the chairman understands what honour is.
“Now, our issue is only one issue: the signing of the industrial agreement. Now I hear the chairman still making his rounds, arguing the point about this industrial agreement. Since our first press statement on April 12, it is now April 30, I’ve only asked him to do one thing: present the evidence to the public.
“That’s all I’ve asked him to do. If you say, two years you’ve had a position, you have all your data, you have all your facts, present it to the public. Let the public agree with your position. That’s all I ask him to do. Nothing else. And he fails to do that. Then do the honourable thing like the ministry: sign the industrial agreement.”