2,800 WASA jobs on the line

George said WASA employs about 4,800 workers, but argued that 2,800 of these workers may be superfluous.

“There are 4,800 workers in WASA,” he told reporters at a post-Cabinet press briefing, Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair. “That figure is an increase on the 2,033 employed in the year 2000.”

He said an earlier review of the authority had determined that 2,033 was the “benchmark” of how many persons were needed at WASA. However, after a restructuring exercise in the early part of the last decade, 2,800 workers were taken on at WASA.

“Two thousand, eight hundred workers were put into the utility and yet you have no improvement in the delivery of services,” the minister said. “One wonders what that extra 2,800 were brought in to do.”

George’s comments came amid continued uncertainty over the current rate of unemployment, an uncertain outlook in relation to this country’s economic prospect as well as continued agitation on the labour front. The minister’s comments also came on the day he announced that allowances to poor people to allow them to pay WASA and TTEC bills would be doubled. (See page 5)

Questioned by reporters, George confirmed that a Ugandan firm (which he did not name) has been “contracted to assist WASA in its restructuring exercise that will involve how WASA does business.”

“It’s a restructuring and it may indeed involve a reduction of the labour force,” the minister said. Pressed further on possible job losses, he said, “I have been saying that since September 2010 and nobody has been laid off.”

But, refusing to rule out the possibility, he added, “In any restructuring one expects there would be a reduction of the workforce.”

As of yesterday, the Central Statistical Office’s figure on unemployment remained out of date. The rate as at mid-2011 has been estimated at about six percent.

George noted that the State spends about $1 billion annually to fund WASA, inclusive of its wage bill.

While George did not name the Ugandan firm, in February, WASA announced that Uganda’s National Water and Sewage Corporation had signed a $2 million “performance improvement contract” with WASA.

In February, WASA also disclosed that it had signed a $5.2 million contract with Spanish firm Agbar, also ostensibly for the “restructuring” of WASA.

The prospect of retrenchment at WASA has lingered for years.

As far back as October 2008, workers staged protests over reports, denied by management, of planned job-cuts. In May 2010, there were further protests by workers, this time over the non-payment of allowances.

In July 2010, George said WASA was in a “bad financial state” with its operation deficit rising to the billions.

In February of this year, Government Chief Whip Dr Roodal Moonilal said WASA signed a $693 million contract with an Israeli firm under the PNM on the eve of the May 24, 2010 general election.

Also in February, George disclosed that WASA stood to lose $92 million in its supply arrangement with Desalcott this year.

An amendment to the Water Improvement Order was passed in Parliament this year, seeking to add $150 million to WASA’s coffers annually.

Last September, WASA sought to serve retrenchment letters on 69 of 400 workers recruited by under the National Social Development Programme, an State-funded employment allocation programme. The move, however, was blocked by way of an action in the Industrial Court.

WASA CEO Ganga Singh did not answer calls yesterday.


"2,800 WASA jobs on the line"

More in this section