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…said labour cost will be reduced by $432M per annum
The top management of Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI), on Friday, defended its decision to terminate the services of 157 employees, saying that the move will cut its labour cost by $36M per month or $432M per annum.
Engineers, clerks, craftsmen, labourers, debt recovery officers, customer services representatives, cashiers, and field investigators are among those being fired by the water company. Last Monday, 76 employees were issued termination letters, and over the next three months, the remainder will be sent home.
Backed by the Executive Director of Human Resources Management and Development, Elvis Jordon, and the Executive Director of Operations (ag), Jawaharlall Ramrug, GWI’s Chief Executive Officer, Sheik Baksh said the decision to terminate the services of 157 was birthed out of the need to reduce the high staff burden.
“The first issue relates to the organizational restructuring and rationalization of the staffing establishment at GWI. This was a process that became necessary, since the utility cannot be sustainable with the large employment cost, the huge employment cost of $240M per month. In 2015, that figure was $96M per month, and the staffing establishment was just over 600 employees, it jumped to over 1,300 employees, significant increases, and this cannot be sustained,” Baksh said during a virtual press conference.
He assured that due process was followed, and both the Ministry of Labour and the recognized union were notified of the move. He also refuted claims that those fired are of a particular ethnicity.
His press conference came one day after the former CEO of GWI, Dr. Richard Van-West Charles criticized the current management over its decision to place hundreds of employees on the breadline. Dr. Van-West Charles had said that while Baksh boasts that in 2015, the labour cost was $96M, he fell short of telling the nation that the water company was paying contractors $150M.
Dr. Van-West Charles said under Baksh’s leader pre-2015, GWI had outsourced a large portion of its work, when the very work could have been done by the staff of the company. However, Baksh assured that outsourcing will be limited going forward.
“This will not lead to more outsourcing than has occurred in the company over the last five years, it will not,” he emphasized, while accusing Van-West Charles of mismanagement.
Baksh assured too that the deduction in staff will not compromise the quality of service being offered at the moment.
Weighing in on the issue, Jordon told reporters that in late 2019 early 2020, GWI had difficulties paying staff. “From a financial economic sense, we had to move to this position in terms of the reorganizing and the rationalization of staff,” he posited.
However, while Baksh and Jordon justified the dismissal of the 157 employees, they defended GWI’s decision to rehire the Financial Director, Jaigopaul Ram, who was fired in March, 2018 under the previous administration over financial irregularities.
“We reviewed the files, and we did not find any justification for the person being sent off. We did not find any, in terms of corrupted practices,” Baksh said.
Ram has since been rehired but as GWI’s Business Development Director.
Notably between August 2020 and April 2021, 114 were let go via a process of natural attrition, meaning they either resigned, retired and or dismissed. In other cases, contracts were not renewed.