Unions to WASA workers: Be brave come out and fight on Friday

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

In this file photo, PSA 1st vice president Felisha Thomas addresses angry WASA employees about the possibility of retrenchment at their Farm Road, St. Joseph headquarters on June 30. – Angelo Marcelle

THE NATIONAL Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW) and the Public Services Association (PSA) have urged Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) workers to be brave as they prepare to enter “the fight of their lives.”

But mere hours before they joined several other unions to begin a protest at the Brian Lara Promenade, Port of Spain, NUGFW offered the Prime Minister an olive branch in the hope of coming to an agreement that would reverse the impending retrenchment.

If this offer is ignored, WASA workers will gather as part of a mass demonstration on Friday, in their case to reject the government’s decision to furlough hundreds of managers in an ongoing restructuring process. Other state-agency employees are protesting against the wage increase offered by the Chief Personnel Officer.

In a media report in July, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales said in the first phase of the transformation plan, all positions within WASA’s existing structure would come to an end, making them redundant. He further said there would be new job descriptions for all managerial positions.

In July Gonzales said Cabinet had approved a transformation plan for WASA, to attract the “best and brightest talent” for new management posts

At a meeting hosted by NUGFW and the PSA on Thursday morning at the Valsayn Community Centre, scores of daily paid workers declared, “It’s war” as NUGFW’s first vice president Andy Crichlow addressed them.

Crichlow cautioned the workers that the future of their livelihood will depend on their response to the call for workers to flood the streets of Port of Spain.

“We don’t want words of comfort – they gave workers of TSTT and Petrotrin this. We (are) not accepting this. We going to fight for our lives. It’s not about politics. We moving at one pace, one movement, one timing.

“The day of reckoning is at hand, the fight for survival is here. Don’t be afraid, we are protecting you. You have nothing to be afraid of. Stand up and don’t get weary.”

Crichlow went on to accuse the government of disparaging “hard-working WASA workers who have dedicated so much over the years and during the pandemic, to keep operations at WASA going.”

In a message to Dr Rowley, Crichlow said, “We are offering you an olive branch. Failure to take it, you’ll bring this country to a state of war.”

He then turned to the workers to declare, “We cannot be afraid of 21 people (PNM MPs). We will take the fight to them and bring them to their knees.

“WASA cannot even be defined and they want to restructure it. WASA is a service, it was never a business. Water is essential and every government is expected to provide citizens with this basic necessity. Let us know our power, let us exercise it.

“The day of reckoning is at hand, we have been humiliated, disrespected and pushed us the door, ridiculed, demonised and subjected to all kinds of vile acts by the government.”