A shutdown of the public sector looms on Tuesday as president of the Public Services Association (PSA) Watson Duke has told WASA workers to stay home on that day.
In his fight back to save jobs at the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), which is to be restructured, Duke said other trade unions have committed to encouraging their members and other public sector workers to stand in solidarity with the WASA employees.
“Tuesday is officially a holiday. Watson Duke has given the workers a day off on Tuesday. It is not a day for leaders. That is your day to reset your mind. Let them know you are conscious,” he said at a news conference on Saturday.
“I speak for PSA, NATUC and all like-minded trade unions. This is a battle. Government is against workers so we must be against it (government).”
It is proposed that WASA be replaced with a water management company with a revised water sector model over a three-year transition period.
Saying Government has broken its contract with not only workers but all citizens, Duke, leader of the PDP which is in an election deadlock with the PNM in the Tobago House of Assembly (THA), urged the Prime Minister to call elections not only in Tobago, but in Trinidad as well.
Wearing the cap of president of the National Trade Union Centre (NATUC) Duke said Government has shut the door of opportunity in the faces of all workers.
“They continue to peddle to the unemployed (those who are weak) that we have opportunities for you. They said it to the workers of Caroni, 10,000 workers, we will create jobs for you, we will give you land, you will become a businessman.
“They said it to the people of Bwee (BWIA), they said it to the people of National Housing (now HDC), the people of the Ministry of Health (now RHAs) the general post office (now TTPost), they said it to the people of Petrotrin, so you think the workers at WASA are safe?”
At a meeting of various unions, prior to the news briefing, Duke said all of the leaders were concerned about the constant threat on the working class.
“The threat of joblessness looms over every trade union head. The threat of financial instability brought on by pay cuts and refusal of Government to honour obligations with regards to certain benefits and ability to adjust workers salary on the effects of inflation to maintain the workers standard of living.”
Referring to the uproar over the $468.3 million overtime bill between 2016 to 2020 paid to WASA workers, he said the collective agreement with the State is law and workers are entitled to payment if they incur overtime.
Pointing to the Cabinet sub-committee report on WASA which spoke of political patronage causing it to be in its present situation, Duke said he was pained to understand how workers' overtime could be the focus in the circumstance.
“Remove the politics from WASA and allow us to be a treated like a business entity,” he said and the company could see a turnaround. “Give us a fair chance to fix it.”
He also challenged the new executive director Lennox Sealy who has been put in charge of the turnaround to say what company he has restructured.