Watson Duke

MISMANAGEMENT: Watson Duke

Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke has slammed criticisms that water provider WASA is unwieldy, management-heavy and unproductive, arguing that more people are getting water today “than ever in the history of this country”.

He said yesterday that WASA workers should take a rest from work next week and that his union will fight for their jobs if they are threatened in any restructuring process.

On Tuesday, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales announced that WASA chairman and management consultant Dr Lennox Sealy has been appointed executive director of the debt-ridden State utility.

He replaced Alan Poon King as acting CEO.

Poon King returns to his position as director of customer care.

At a news conference yesterday at PSA’s head office in Port of Spain, Duke criticised Gonzales for saying that WASA was unproductive, especially since workers had been responsive to the country’s needs, even during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“WASA has been stable for the last 11 years since I have been president, no shutting down, no antagonism. When the workers speak it is only for a just cause. WASA is not dead, there are more persons today that are getting water than ever in the history of this country,” Duke said.

‘WASA needs money’

Duke claimed it was Government’s intention to split WASA into two entities.

But he insisted that no such action will be allowed by the PSA.

“We shut down the Trinidad and Tobago Revenue Authority and other items brought by this Government so this proposed plan to split WASA will be dismissed by the union,” Duke said.

WASA needs more funding to improve efficiency, he said.

“What the authority needs is money, they have no backhoes, management are buying sub-standard equipment and sub-standard materials. The workmen there are very efficient, they are not lazy people. What WASA wants is the politicians to remove themselves and to allow an efficient management to run the day-to-day business.”

Duke said Poon King’s management was very effective and his replacement was a “hard slap in the face”.

‘WASA fate will be worse than Petrotrin’

Duke called on workers to not stand idly by and do nothing as their fate could be worse than that of former Petrotrin workers.

“We are not going to wait on a conversation, the union is going to start fighting from day one...I say to WASA workers next Tuesday along with the other public servants, take a day off. Go for a walk, cool your brain and take time to think things over. There are persons who have lost their jobs and don’t even know how they are paying their bills,” he said.

He also called a meeting on Saturday with all trade Unions to discuss the way forward.

Speaking on radio station i95.5FM’s morning programme yesterday, Minister Gonzales reiterated that there were no plans to privatise WASA as he said it was not a feasible option for the country.

“We cannot afford to privatise WASA. The authority plays too much an important role in the stability of the country. As a matter of fact, it has not entered the Government’s discussions when we were doing a review of the water sector in Trinidad and Tobago,” Gonzales said.

He indicated that appointing Sealy was just the first step in reorganising the management structure at the Authority.

“Given the level of dysfunction in WASA a decision was made based on the Cabinet sub-committee findings to appoint Sealy as an executive director, to be able to drive the level of transformation that is required to turn around the authority in the shortest possible time. The first order of business is to have a very strong management team that will work with the Government to bring out about change.”

Gonzales said the performance of the new executive will be monitored.

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