PM: No decisions yet on restructuring WASA, TSTT

Prime Minister Rowley - Sureash Cholai
Prime Minister Rowley - Sureash Cholai

WHILE the restructuring of the Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago Limited (TSTT) and the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) are imminent, the government has considerable work to do before the final plans are laid.

The Prime Minister, answering questions in Parliament on Wednesday, said the companies are in discussions with the respective union representatives.

MP for Caroni Central Arnold Ram asked Dr Rowley to inform the House of any proposed restructuring at both utility companies and the implications for the workers’ job security.

He replied, “Madam Speaker, with respect to WASA, the Cabinet sub-committee that was appointed to examine the recommendations contained in the 2020 sub-committee report for the transformation (of WASA) continues to work with the board of commissioners and the finalisation of a transformation plan for the authority.”

Last year, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales described WASA’s restructuring as a three-year project.

Ram’s question to the PM comes two days after TSTT issued a statement announcing a decline in the company’s revenue by $453 million (or 18 per cent).

In the statement, TSTT CEO Lisa Agard said, “Given our current challenges, TSTT considers that it must now urgently restructure to remain competitive."

The PM echoed reasons for the declines highlighted in TSTT’s statement, attributing them to the pandemic, as well as competition from new technologies and cell phone applications.

“Like other companies in TT,” Rowley told the House, “TSTT has been significantly impacted by the economic conditions brought on by the pandemic. This, coupled with increased consumer adoption of digital applications like WhatsApp and the utilisation of communication platforms like Zoom, has seen a steady erosion of traditional voice revenue in TT.

Rowley referred to a TSTT report, noting a 50 per cent decline in fixed voice calling over ten years and a 20 per decline in mobile voice calling over the same period.

However, he said the government will continue to meet with union representatives.

“No final determination or decision has yet been made regarding the proposed restructuring,” he said. “The company has commenced a consultation process with the recognised unions and that process is ongoing. The government cannot say anything more at this time that will prejudice the outcome of these decisions, but to implore all concerned to act in the best interest of the organisation, customers and citizens of TT.”

Responding to a subsequent question from Couva South MP Rudranath Indarsingh, Rowley affirmed that the government has begun negotiations with representative trade unions.

He said the cost of wage increases in the public sector has been calculated by the Chief Personnel Officer’s office and the Minister of Finance will make a submission to the Cabinet by the end of January.

“It is expected, therefore, that negotiations can properly commence by March, 2022,” Rowley said. “It is also to be noted, Madam Speaker, that during the period of economic decline, followed by two years of pandemic emergency and emergency spending, the government has maintained the payment of all public servants, on time, without termination or reduction of remunerations.

“This has been made possible by the judicious use of overdraft borrowings and withdrawals from the Heritage and Stabilisation Fund. And it is against that backdrop, Madam Speaker, that negotiations of wage increases are to be seen. But the negotiations will take place, will continue, and we hope, will come to an amicable conclusion."


"PM: No decisions yet on restructuring WASA, TSTT"

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