NWC staff heading back to work from 11pm Wednesday | Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News | Loop News

Labour and Social Security Minister, Karl Samuda, has advised that a back-to-work agreement has been reached with the National Water Commission (NWC) and the five unions representing the commission’s over 2,000-person workforce, following some 16 hours of meetings.

A release from the ministry said the workers who took strike action on Tuesday morning in protest at concerns over compensation and reclassification issues, are to return to work starting with the night shift on Wednesday, which begins at 11pm.

The strike resulted in water disruptions that have been affecting schools, health facilities, resorts and the productive and commercial sectors, along with householders in general, across the island.

Despite ongoing negotiations between representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the NWC and the five trade unions representing the workers, the industrial action continued into Wednesday, causing the water supply dislocation to become more chaotic.

Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Andrew Holness spoke on the issue while addressing a function. He said with the negotiations under way, there is no need for the country and population to continue to suffer without water supplies.

“Right now as we speak, I am getting several calls from businesses, schools, from hospitals, that they are at serious risks,” Holness said.

“Hotels have been saying that they are trying to relocate guests into other areas where water supply is available. Many of them, their backup supplies are running low,” he continued.

In reiterating his appeal for the NWC workers to return to work, Holness declared that “Jamaica is one boat, and if there is a hole in the boat, we are all at risk of sinking”.

He contended that it “makes no sense to jeopardise everything else,” as Jamaica is “right at the cusp of taking off as a country”.

The prime minister pointed to the country continuing to recover from the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic and global geo-political issues.

The latter, he said, continues to create dislocation in the commodities market, particularly energy; and (also impacting) inflation.

“But yet, the country is reporting increased employment, even more than before the pandemic.

“We are seeing the tourists arrivals increasing almost back to pre-pandemic levels. We are seeing economic activities taking off. We should not be the ones creating a crisis to sink our own ship,” he warned.

Holness indicated then, that based on his discussions with the Government’s negotiating team, “steady progress” was being made to settle the impasse with the NWC workers.

“We want to assure Jamaicans (that) we are doing everything possible to return water supplies to those areas which don’t have water supplies,” he said.