NATUC head Michael Annisette will not meet the Government to discuss WASA as was sought by the Prime Minister, he told Newsday on Monday, as this was the remit of the unions representing workers at the authority.
Annisette said, “NATUC cannot take that invitation because it will be in breach of the Industrial Relations Act.”
More so, he added that talks were unlikely because several conflicts surrounding WASA were now sub judice at the Industrial Court.
On Saturday at a PNM virtual rally in Laventille, Dr Rowley publicly instructed Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales to seek to meet labour umbrella bodies NATUC and JTUM over WASA restructuring.
In response, firstly, Annisette also took issue with how Rowley had issued his instruction to Gonzales.
“One has to remember this was at a political meeting. We believe it was inappropriate and in poor taste to use a political platform to address industrial relations matters and to instruct the minister to meet the federations.
“The second point is that the Prime Minister clearly doesn’t understand industrial relations or the Industrial Relations Act, because a federation cannot replace a recognised majority union.”
He said the correct protocol would have been for the PM to seek a meeting with the unions at WASA, the NUGFW and Public Services Association (PSA.)
Annisette alleged Rowley’s remarks had demonstrated a disregard for the trade union movement.
“The third point I want to make – the public may not be aware – is that the PSA would have taken WASA, the Board and management, to the Industrial Court over an industrial relations offence, for failing to meet and treat with the union in good faith as it relates to the restructuring of WASA.”
Annisette said over 100 meetings were held on WASA restructuring.
“There were MOUs that were signed as relates to those discussions, and the board failed to engage the union meaningfully in regard to the restructuring, notwithstanding the discussions, and that matter is before the Industrial Court.
“If a matter is before the Industrial Court as it relates to the restructuring of WASA, how do you (Rowley) then make a public statement to instruct the minister when that matter is sub judice?”
Annisette said he wants all of TT to get water, but the correct protocol must be followed.
He also took aim at the PM’s jibe at some labour leaders on Saturday.
“You cannot be calling workers’ leaders ‘dotish’ and all these kind of things and then you try to say that you support labour and you love labour. That remark reminds me of the pot calling the kettle black.
“It is unfortunate that rather than trying to build a collaborative approach this prime minister and Government continue to be very insensitive, arrogant and aggressive, and have an extensive sense of hubris. That won’t get us anywhere in TT.”
Annisette then said since 1965, WASA had been run for 39 years by PNM governments but Rowley had forgot to mention political patronage. He said WASA had no bad workers but only bad managers and bad leaders, as he said was attested in reports down the years. He wanted places like Moruga and Belmont to start to get a better water supply.
“That should have been the focus of the Prime Minister rather than trying to play to his constituency and make the trade union the bad boy on the block.”
Annisette blamed poor institutions on poor leadership, starting from the very top (that is, Rowley.)
“So when he’s talking about what is happening and all the inefficiencies, let it be the man in the mirror.”