Prime Minister Andrew Holness has made an impassioned plea to the striking National Water Commission (NWC) workers to return to their jobs in order to avoid losing the economic gains that are being made by the country despite the COVID-19 pandemic and geo-political issues in Europe.
Speaking at a function on Wednesday, Holness acknowledged the needs of the striking workers to get the attention of the Government in recognising their “valid concerns” relative to their compensation.
“I believe that attention has been gotten. We have been in negotiations since yesterday (Tuesday). Having now being established that we are negotiating and discussing to coming to a… solution, it would be in the interest of all that the water supply be returned,” stated Holness.
More than 2,000 NWC workers took industrial action on Tuesday, resulting in water disruptions that have affected schools, health facilities, resorts and the productive and commercial sectors across the island, along with householders in general.
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 has continued well into Wednesday, causing the water supply dislocation to become more chaotic.
Now that the negotiations are ongoing, Holness said there is no need for the country and population to continue to suffer without water.
“Right now as we speak, I am getting several calls from businesses, schools, from hospitals, that they are at serious risks,” he shared.
“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.
Meanwhile, Holness said based on his discussions with the Government’s negotiating team, “steady progress” is being made to settle the current impasse with the NWC workers.
“We want to assure Jamaicans we are doing everything possible to return water supplies to those areas which don’t have water supplies,” he said.