President of the Public Services Association (PSA) and the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) Watson Duke said he expects the TT dollar to be devalued, which he believes will have a negative impact on workers’ salaries.
Duke was speaking at a press conference on Wednesday at the PSA's head office on Abercromby Street, Port of Spain where he addressed the new budget and the government’s treatment of WASA workers.
“I am of the opinion that by the time this budget is read…the foreign exchange of the US dollar will impact drastically and negatively on the TT dollar, so much so that our salaries, when looked at in its US value, will depreciate greatly, and we may well be down to 50 per cent of our purchasing power.”
Duke said he expects the new government to maintain 100 per cent of workers’ purchasing power.
“Even if workers do not receive an increase in salary, they must receive a top-up on their salary so they can maintain their basic standard of living.
“I do not expect the government to allow this year to end without signaling to workers what they will do to restore that purchasing power.”
Duke said at present workers are at 70 per cent of their purchasing power compared to 2013.
He also addressed the government’s treatment of WASA employees, saying it is placing blame on employees for the authority operating at a deficit.
“The new (Public Utilities) minister came in and stuck his feet on the necks of workers of WASA, saying to them WASA is overstaffed…by some 4,000 workers. The PM echoed that sentiment loudly by putting together a cabinet committee.
“Did those workers just appear in WASA one day? Or was it the State over the last five years employ these people?...WASA cannot be financially strong so long as successive governments continue to play with WASA and use WASA as their political football.”
Duke said because WASA was operating at a deficit, the government stepped in to subsidise the authority to the tune o $1.8 billion.
“Now (the government) is turning their animosity and wickedness upon the staff and saying it’s the 4,000 (additional) workers.”
Duke said WASA is not making enough money to pay its bills. He said the cost of producing one gallon of water is 30 cents.
“How can (WASA) possibly make a profit when the cost of producing water is way more than the cost of what they're selling?”
He proposed the government revisit the idea of metering.
“Let us charge the people for the cost of producing water. Let people pay for what they use. If you do not get water, you don’t pay, or you pay a standpipe rate. If you are using water and the water is being wasted, any leak you have inside your home you must pay for it.
“Stop trying to number how many persons are employed in WASA and give WASA the rate increase that it so long deserves and are asking for.”
Duke also mentioned the date for the Tobago House of Assembly elections will be announced on Thursday.
“I will be contesting those elections again.
“So long as we have wicked people in place in charge of this government, people who do not care, I am saying I am going to fight those people.
So if this PNM government thinks to themselves that they would be able to instal their PNM people into this PSA, I will let them know I will fight with everything I have to fight for the workers of this country.”