Although he did not admit that the Water and Sewerage Authority was on the verge of retrenching workers soon, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales says the Government expects progress in the restructuring of the Authority and is awaiting further updates from the board.
Gonzales made the comments following questions raised by Princes Town MP Barry Padarath, during the Standing Finance Committee’s deliberation on the $2.8 billion expenditure for the ministry yesterday.
Padarath highlighted Government’s decreased allocation for WASA’s National Insurance Scheme (NIS) contributions by $25,910,000 and asked if it meant WASA would have a decrease in personnel.
To which, Gonzales said it was not just NIS contributions but a reduction in salaries, Cost of Living Allowances, wages, overtime and all items associated with personnel expenditure.
Gonzales said: “It is believed that in 2024, a lot of strides and progress will be made in restructuring the Water and Sewerage Authority. It is expected that we can have some cost savings here. We are not sure, but the decrease in the NIS contribution is a result of the savings we expect to have under the line item of salaries and Cost of Living Allowance, wages and personnel expenditure.
With Gonzales not saying that WASA would retrench workers soon, Padarath said he was having difficulty with his terminology of progress. Padarath maintained that a reduction in NIS contributions meant fewer people on WASA’s payroll.
Padarath said the decrease meant Gonzales was sending home WASA employees, but the minister remarked that he could not send home any workers, but that WASA’s board has the responsibility to implement the restructuring.
Gonzales added that he could not reveal how many employees the restructuring would impact, saying it would be speculative to do so.
In a media release afterwards, Padarath said the WASA board and Government were the same, since Cabinet selects the members. He accused Gonzales of skirting the issue but said the intention to axe employees was evident. He described it as a cruel, evil and heartless attack on WASA employees when unemployment was already high.