Over 500, 000 customers are being affected by the NWC strike taken by more than 2000 National Water Commission (NWC) workers over the outstanding reclassification exercise as well as an ongoing public sector compensation review. The strike has also affected more than 1000 NWC facilities, which includes some of the country’s major infrastructures.
According to company president, Mark Barnett, who shared with The Star that the strike came as a complete surprise, he explained that the situation was not solely in the hands of NWC and there was a process that the company had to follow for the matter to be resolved.
The industrial actions that were taken by the workers resulted in an island-wide disruption which caused some schools to close and is threatening the operations of many businesses.
Barnett explained that due to “what the union perceive to be a delay”, the workers took unannounced industrial actions, which goes against the usual practice that is taken when concerns arise.
The usual practice would involve NWC being notified of the impending industrial action and being issued an ultimatum, which would lead to the company organizing a meeting with the unions to resolve the situation, but in this situation they were not granted the opportunity to handle the issue in that manner.
The Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers is one of the unions representing NWC workers. The NWC workers have been striking for more than 8 hours, and Barnett is not able to say when the workers will resume working.
While the Unions and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security are having a meeting to resolve the issue, Barnett is threatening to take legal actions against the workers if they do not resume work soon, and in the Labour Relations and Industrial Disputes Acts, there is a section prohibiting essential service workers from taking industrial action without following certain procedures, which is found in Part III subsection (9) (5).
“Water is essential to life and we can’t be held hostage because certain things didn’t go in a timely manner to please stakeholders. So, whatever it takes to get back our operations to normalcy that’s what we’ll have to do,” he stated.
According to Labour Minister Karl Samuda, who spoke with the House of Representatives on May 10, a “further consultation” is required “because there are still differences that will have to be resolved”. At this consultation, Mr Samuda will “keep the people apprised of the progress or the challenges that are being faced” and also ensure to keep Jamaicans updated on the situation.
The minister expressed that he “sympathise wholeheartedly with the persons who are denied water supply” and he will do everything possible to have the water flowing as it should.
Meanwhile, it is advised that the water has been restored “to a great degree”, but it is not known if the workers will continue to take further industrial actions.
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