NWC workers’ ‘last resort’ industrial action leads to deal | Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News | Loop News

Stating that the industrial action by National Water Commission (NWC) workers that led to water disruptions islandwide was a “last resort”, trade unionist Helene Davis-Whyte says she is “satisfied” with the back-to-work agreement reached between the unions and the Government.

“We can never be 100 per cent happy, but we are satisfied with what we were able to hammer out,” the general secretary of Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers (JALGO) told Loop News on Wednesday night.

JALGO is one of the five unions representing some of the more than 2,000 workers who stayed off the job for two days, since Tuesday, protesting compensation and reclassification issues. The agreement paved the way for NWC workers to return to work Wednesday, starting with the night shift at 11pm.

Asked to comment on the criticisms levelled against NWC workers for the strike that resulted in the islandwide water lock-off, Davis-Whyte said: “We are certainly sorry that it had to come to this.

“I certainly don’t think it was the intention of the workers to deny the customers of the NWC the service that they are paying for.

“… But I think what it speaks to is the intransigence on the part of the Ministry of Finance; not only intransigence, but the fact that they have adopted a kind of dictatorial approach that we do not believe is conducive to good industrial relations, and I think that is one of the reasons we are where we are,” declared Davis-Whyte.

Reiterating that the workers took no pleasure in taking the action that they did, she noted that many workers would not have waited approximately 14 years for a compensation exercise to be completed.

“For the workers, it [was] a last resort. It is something that they really felt that could not be avoided, bearing in mind that we were not getting out of the Ministry of Finance the commitment to go ahead and implement an agreement that was arrived at so long ago,” stated the JALGO general secretary.

The agreement signed by the unions and the Government, a copy of which was obtained by Loop News, states: “There will be no victimisation on either side arising from the industrial action.”

In relation to the back-to-work agreement, Davis-Whyte told Loop News that it speaks to the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service procuring the services of a consultant to carry out a job evaluation exercise for NWC workers.

The consultant is to further “look at the alignment of salaries for NWC staff within the new compensation structure that is to be implemented for the public sector”, she said.

“The agreement also sees the Ministry of Finance providing the final organisational structure for the NWC by May 20, and also to provide the report of the market survey that was conducted of private sector companies by May 20, 2022.

“Also, all of these exercises, including the job evaluation and the alignment of the commission, would be completed and implemented within six months of May 20,” she outlined.

Davis-Whyte also explained that during the negotiations with the Government, the focus was on job evaluation rather than a reclassification exercise.

“The job evaluation exercise that we have agreed on is the one that will ensure that the jobs in the NWC are to be evaluated in terms of trying to determine the relative worth of the jobs, [and] positions in the general labour market.

“… And so, that is, in fact, what the workers primarily want. And so, the agreement of the job evaluation is the kind of compromise that we negotiated instead of going through the full reclassification exercise,” the trade unionist said.