More than 2,000 National Water Commission (NWC) workers across Jamaica, including some management personnel, are now on strike.
As a result, customers are being advised to store water, as it is not yet clear how long the industrial action will continue.
Speaking with Loop News on Tuesday, trade unionist Helene Davis-Whyte said workers from “right across all the bargaining units of the NWC decided that enough is enough for them, and so, they have decided to take action as of this morning (Tuesday).”
She said that she has been receiving “suggestions” that most parishes are now being affected by the action taken by NWC workers.
The NWC workers are represented by the Jamaica Association of Local Government Officers (JALGO), of which Davis-Whyte is the general secretary.
She explained to Loop News that the protest surrounds issues relating to workers’ compensation.
Additionally, Davis-Whyte indicated that NWC workers have been largely left out of the Government’s new compensation review for public sector workers.
“What has really caused the workers to take this action is a reclassification exercise for which the unions had an agreement dating back to 2008.
“However, we had subsequently decided that we would await the outcome of a restructuring exercise before the reclassification exercise could be completed,” she said.
However, that restructuring exercise took 10 years to be completed by the NWC, the trade unionist said.
The report was then sent to the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, “with a request for approval to be granted to hire a consultant to do the reclassification that would be necessary”.
But, since 2019, Davis-Whyte said that the approval process has stalled, and “the workers feel they have waited long” enough.
“In addition, probably, the straw that has broken the camel’s back is the fact that the workers were advised that they are not included under the compensation review.
“… And so, it seems they are exactly nowhere, and what would have to happen very quickly is for that approval to be given for the consultant to hired, so that the work could be done as quickly as possible so that NWC workers would be no worse off than workers in the public sector,” she explained.
In the meantime, JALGO has sought the intervention of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, the veteran trade unionist said.
“We are expecting that the ministry will intervene quickly, and the workers will resume normalcy as soon as an acceptable back-to-work formula can be agreed upon by the Ministry of Labour,” she stated.