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WASA employee protest outside WASA Head Office in St Joseph yesterday.

Daily paid WASA workers, hoping that they will receive sick leave bonuses ahead of the Christmas holiday, staged a protest at the Water utility’s head office in St Joseph.

President of the National Union of Government and Federated Workers’ WASA section Andy Crichlow said it was just another instance of disrespect towards the daily paid workers.

“If you don’t have money there is a process one would go through. Don’t take daily paid people down to the wire who heavily dependent on that sick leave bonus to take care of their Christmas business, to then come and say we eh have,” he said.

Crichlow explained that the arrangement to pay sick leave bonus during Christmas had been in place for 50 years and he was at pains to understand why it was not being upheld this time around.

“It’s a simple thing, the management once again have decided to disrespect the daily paid workers, violate the collective agreement and apparently they are being supported by the Minister or he made some statement. Surely he wasn’t properly informed. He really claimed they was lying to him, so apparently they lying to him. The sick leave bonus is not something we asking for. Sick leave bonus older than the Minister himself,” said Crichlow.

Sick leave bonus is paid out to workers who opt not to take the majority of their allocated sick days, essentially serving as a compensatory incentive for workers not to call in sick.

WASA workers fall under essential services and as such many workers at the authority worked during the COVID-19 lockdown period.

“This is not an offensive move or a defensive move, and is not an offensive move is just that we have to express our dissatisfaction from the management and by extension the minister. We hoping to meet with the acting CO to see what could be worked out,” he said.

During the protest, the workers said they had other concerns, with some expressing dissatisfaction about the lack of backpay.

Crichlow, however, made reference to more statements made by Minister of Public Utilities Marvin Gonzales, such as the call for WASA workers to improve their service as well as the debt owed to the utility by the public.

“You can’t have 700 million dollars outside there and telling me you can’t find 8.5 million to pay me If that come to us in true honesty we would have go out there and collect that money to pay we self…700 million dollars it easy to get 7 million dollars from that,” said Crichlow.

When contacted yesterday, Minister Gonzales said he could not directly respond to the union representative’s statements since he did not all the details regarding the situation.

He, however, said, “I expect WASA management to do their job with full accountability and transparency for the expenditure of public funds. That’s all I expect from them.”

Meanwhile WASA in a statement yesterday evening said it, “recognises that these payments are part of the terms and conditions of employment for Daily Rated employees, as specified in Article 6 of the Collective Agreement between the Authority and the National Union of Government and Federated Workers (NUGFW) and is due to employees who utilise two or less sick days per year.”

The Authority said it is committed to meeting its obligations to its employees under the subsisting Collective Agreement as it had communicated with the union in a letter dated December 15.