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Workers 'breaking down door' to make exit

By NATARIO McKENZIE

Tribune Business Reporter

nmckenzie@tribunemedia.net

THE union representing Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC) line staff yesterday welcomed the planned Voluntary Separation Packages (VSEPs), as workers will be "breaking down the door to get out of here".

Dwayne Woods, the Bahamas Utilities Services and Allied Workers Union (BUSAWU) president, told Tribune Business he was only informed of the VSEP proposal unveiled yesterday as a result of this newspaper's inquiries.

The corporation's chairman, Adrian Gibson, said the VSEP packages are part of an effort to "right size" the state-owned utility provider. He said the corporation was aiming reduce its staff count by 80-120 persons, but told Tribune Business the final range would likely be between 50-100, emphasising that employees will not be forced to leave.

Mr Woods told Tribune Business that during a meeting with Mr Gibson yesterday, he inquired about the VSEP proposal. "What he said to me was that the Corporation is in an embryonic state of preparing VSEP packages for persons who want to voluntarily separate from the Corporation," the union chief added.

"He said that it may mirror that of what BEC put forward. I want to make it clear that nothing has been submitted to the union, but we stand ready, willing and able to negotiate in good faith with the Corporation on the voluntary separation packages. I would like to highlight the word voluntary, meaning that it would only be for persons opting to separate and there would be no forced separations."

Mr Woods added: "It hasn't come yet, and whenever it comes I already have 15 persons opting to go, and I have written them since August of last year. I would welcome it. I know members who would be breaking down the door to get out of here.

"I don't think there will be any shortage of persons looking to accept the package. Persons with 30 years or more would gladly get out of here. Although the Corporation is late in presenting their packages to the union, we look forward to partnering with them them in a tripartite arrangement."

The Water & Sewerage Management Union (WSMU) president, Ednel Rolle, told Tribune Business he was unaware of the VSEP announcement as he is currently on vacation.

Mr Gibson first revealed that VSEPs were coming in an interview with Tribune Business back in April. He stated at the time there was "no doubt" the company will have to restructure and reorganise in a bid to align its staffing and cost base with revenues and future needs.

Speaking to this newspaper yesterday, Mr Gibson was unable to give precise figures for how much the VSep packages will cost or the likely savings that will result to the WSC from the downsizing, emphasising that it was still early in the process.

"I know persons will go for it," he told Tribune Business of the voluntary separations. "What we are going to do is review all the requests and applications, and we will determine. In some cases we will ask persons to stay on. It could be quite a number of people accept it. We're in the embryonic stages now, putting together the package."

Asked about the likely costs and savings benefits, Mr Gibson replied: "We are working through that as we speak. Up front, we expect it will cost us a few million, maybe $1-$2 million. We expect it will cost us a few dollars. But on the savings side we will save millions of dollars."

The WSC executive chairman, as with Bahamas Power & Light (BPL) and the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC), indicated that he saw the VSep exercise as an opportunity to reduce the age profile of the Corporation's workforce and make room for younger, tech savvy and dynamic employees.

"The reality is there are some areas that are overstaffed, some areas that are understaffed, and some areas where we can shift people to. The average age is 50, and we want to streamline the Corporation, make it more efficient, and recruit the best and brightest minds to the Corporation. We want to run it as a business."

Comments

Sickened 6 years ago

So, they are expecting to get rid of 80-120 people (let's say 100) and to pay out between $1 and 2 million (let's say $1.5 million). That's $15,000 per person. Me thinks there won't be many people breaking down any doors for that.

sheeprunner12 6 years ago

Agreed .......... when some BPL workers getting six-figures to go

John 6 years ago

This voluntary separation or even mandatory separation package thing is something kinda new to the Bahamas and persons not yet at retirement age should do careful planning before they decide to take these packages. Many people have found themselves broke or even in debt before the age of 50 and at an age where employment is not easy to come by. Some persons in the private sector receive packages in excess of a million dollars and even then poor management can see them back on the employment line even after the age of retirement.

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