WASA backs down, Watson Duke keeps job and gets no-pay leave extension


PDP leader Watson Duke. –

Public Services Association (PSA) president Watson Duke will not be fired from the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) as the utility’s CEO Lennox Sealy has retracted warning letters sent to Duke and also granted him an extension of his no-pay leave for another four years, in order for him to attend to PSA duties.

In a letter sent to Duke on Thursday, Sealy withdrew warning letters sent on March 9 and April 14, calling on him to account for his absence from WASA for some 11 years – on no-pay leave – to focus on his role at the PSA.

In the last letter, WASA cited a conflict of interest between Duke’s portfolios as PSA head and assistant manager at WASA. It also questioned his time off as union leader and post as minority leader in the Tobago House of Assembly.

Duke was given until an ultimatum: respond by April 21 or be fired.

Instead, Duke challenged Sealy to fire him and through his attorney, described the move as “harsh, oppressive, amounting to a criminal offence and unconstitutional.”

During a press conference on Thursday, Duke announced Sealy’s change of heart, saying his request for extended no-pay leave from December 15, 2020 to December 14, 2024, was granted.

Unsatisfied by the response, Duke called on Sealy for a public apology.

“He sought to defame my good name and place it out there as if Watson was messing with the law…”

He further called on the Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales to revoke Sealy’s appointment as WASA CEO.

“I’m calling on the minister to revoke the appointment forthwith of Lennox Sealy. He is unworthy to lead WASA, he is making bad mistakes that are tormenting the lives of people, and I will ask my attorney to pursue this (issue) because it caused me pain and suffering.”

He said Sealy failed to note the Civil Service Act, which permits Duke time to deal with industrial matters and such failure showed Sealy was unfit to lead the transformation exercise in WASA.

“And I’m sorry and worried about the 5,000 people in WASA, who have biases and preconceived ideas, how can he get anything right?”

Contacted for comment earlier in the week,  Gonzales said action by WASA against Duke must not be seen as a personal attack against the union leader but as part of efforts to transform the state utility.

The minister could not be reached for comment on Thursday on the decision to keep Duke on the job and extend his no-pay leave.

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