By FARRAH JOHNSON
THE unions representing the managers and line staff at the Water & Sewerage Corporation called for the removal of WSC executive chairman Adrian Gibson and for the corporation’s executives to meet with both unions to address their grievances during day one of a joint strike.
Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) president Dwayne Woods said both unions will engage in a “full strike from Bimini to Inagua,” until their issues have been addressed.
“First on the agenda is the removal of Mr Gibson, our counter proposal for the industrial agreement, overtime and holiday pay for Abaco restoration, as well as overtime for all Family Islands of New Providence,’ he said at a press conference across from WSC headquarters.
“...This is getting ridiculous at the Water & Sewerage Corporation (and) it reminds me of the quote of Shakespeare: ‘Absolute power corrupts absolutely,’ and we say we will take no more.”
According to Mr Woods, BUSAWU did not meet with the chairman last week. He said instead, corporation executives “put a false meeting out,” where they sent in the deputy general manager and two other employees who could not “answer any questions” or “resolve any issues.”
“The union said to the corporation, please let us meet, sit down and deal with the matter on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “They have refused to do so.”
Water & Sewerage Management Union (WSMU) President Ednel Rolle added that the unions were forced to exercise a strike certificate after being allegedly being “bullied” by Mr Gibson.
“Now both him and the general manager seem to have a problem with organisational skills,” he said.
“They clearly have no idea how the Water and Sewerage Corporation works (and) they do what they please to the detriment of workers.”
The WSMU also issued a press statement yesterday, noting it has been observing the unrest that has been taking place at the corporation.
“The corporation has asserted allegations of misconduct, however our union has not been provided with any information to substantiate these claims,” the statement read. “We are unequivocal that the management union opposes corruption at every level at WSC, line staff, middle management, executive and board level.
“It is the view of our union, that all allegations of wrongdoing should be handled with due process, where a proper investigation is carried out, the findings presented, the accused persons advised with due union representation and where substantiated, the appropriate consequences should follow.”
WSMU also outlined recent experiences which “affirm” complaints made by the line staff concerning a lack of due process.
These include the WSC’s alleged “refusal to recognise the WSMU executive team; due process as it relates to termination; allegations of wastage and abuse of WSC financial resources; staffing and the impact on the public.”
The union plans to host a press conference today.
Meanwhile, Mr Woods insisted both unions are calling on Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis to do the “honourable thing” and remove Mr Gibson so that the unions can be taken “out of Egypt.”
When asked to respond to the WSC’s warning concerning pay deductions for workers who engage in an “illegal sickout,” he added: “We’re saying this is indicative of the behaviour of the executive chairman where he believes that he is above the law, because the law says that we are entitled to two sick days without a doctor’s certificate.”
He also apologised to the corporation’s customers, for any inconvenience that the demonstration might cause.
“We feel for you but the union has tarried with bringing this type of action but the people just can’t take no more...we love you to death…but we have matters at hand that we have to deal with.”
Also in attendance were representatives from other national trade unions who stood in solidarity with WSC union members.
Bernard Evans, president of the National Congress of Trade Unions of The Bahamas (NCTUB), said he believes Mr Gibson should do the “honourable thing” and resign if he is not removed.
“It is sad when you have an executive chairman who disregards both unions that have been in existence for over 30 years...this is a prime example of someone in the wrong place. Obviously he’s run his course and from what I’m hearing they’re not going to go back until he is removed.”
Addressing the matter yesterday outside Cabinet, Labour Minister Dion Foulkes also said that he has been in contact with both sides and hope to get the issues resolved.
“As you know, last year as a result of the strike vote several meetings was held (with) the director of labour...significant progress was made in those meetings last year so I was a little bit surprised of the problem that arose this year.
“It’s unfortunate that it resulted in strike action because as you know water is an essential element for the survival of all of us and it’s very essential that the flow of water continues in New Providence and in the Family Islands.”
WSC officials did not respond to the strike up to press time yesterday.