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Daily workers: WASA unfair to us

By Lara Pickford-Gordon Friday, April 26 2013

WASA workers who entered the company under the National Social Development Programme (NSDP) are accusing the employer of “taking advantage” by using their labour and paying them at the lowest range. Under an agreement in 2011 the workers were to be absorbed within the system and be regularised but this has not happened.

Some workers contacted Newsday to highlight their problem with the hope of getting redress.

They do not get holidays or sick leave and for each day absent from work they lose a day’s pay.

“New people they hire have more rights than us and we have been working for years,” a worker complained. The workers said NSDP was also run in TT Electricity Commission and Telecommunications Services of TT and these participants have been incorporated into the establishment. “The TD4 says we are employed with WASA but WASA said we are NSDP. We need to do something, we are tired,” another worker said. With talk of restructuring at WASA, the workers are concerned they would be sent home.

There was a threat of this in September 2011 when WASA issued termination letters to 81 persons in the NSDP. The National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW) challenged WASA and a Memorandum of Agreement was signed which included the withdrawal of the termination letters and for the 81 workers to be “absorbed within new and existing work crews with effect from Friday 20th, January 2012.”

Contacted on the workers’ complaint, Rodney Lewis, NUGFW Grievance Officer said the NSDP workers would have “great expectation” of job security. He said WASA had been making changes and hiring contract workers without consultation with the union. Lewis said meetings were to take place with management on workers’ concerns but the meetings have been frequently postponed by WASA.

He said if the company was considering “sending home” people it would start with those who were hired last. In response to questions on the status of the NSDP workers, WASA’s General Manager Corporate Communications Ellen Lewis said further to a Cabinet decision in May 2002, funding was approved for the development of NSDP, which “facilitated short-term employment to semi-skilled and unskilled persons to bring relief and improve the water supply within deprived communities.”

Several pipeline installation and maintenance projects were done with the assistance of workers engaged under NSDP. In July 2011 as part of the Authority’s “thrust in becoming a high performance organisation, workforce planning activities started in an effort to reflect the need for new work arrangements.”

By September management began the process of the realignment of projects which affected 81 persons engaged under the NSDP whose services were no longer required. The workers sought assistance from NUGFW which accepted their case and applied to the Industrial Court for an injunction against WASA. The injunction was granted and the matter was registered as an Industrial Relations Offence.

Hearing began in January 2012 and Lewis said while the matter was being heard at the court, “parties continued discussions in the spirit of Social Dialogue and were able to agree to a bilateral settlement.” She said a Memorandum of Agreement between the WASA and NUGFW was signed dated January 16, 2012 as “full and final settlement of the dispute.”

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