The Industrial Court has dismissed a complaint from the Public Services Association (PSA) over ongoing plans to restructure the Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA).
Delivering a decision on Tuesday, Industrial Court Judges Lawrence Achong, Andrew Stroude and Vincent Cabrera rejected the PSA’s industrial relations offence (IRO) largely based on the grounds used by their colleagues to dismiss an injunction application over the issue in March.
“The above findings go to the crux of this matter and are also dispositive of the present IRO,” the three judges said.
In the previous decision, another panel of the court ruled that the litigation was premature as the restructuring plan was still being formulated.
It also ruled collective bargaining process, which the union claimed was being scuttled, would only begin after the plan is finalised and communicated.
Although the PSA signalled its intention to appeal the decision of the injunction based on perceived “errors in substantive and procedural law and errors in fact”, such was not eventually pursued.
“This is by no means a trivial matter, the issue of restructuring as acknowledged by both parties requires collective bargaining but as outlined in Application 14 of 2021 that point is moot when policies have not yet been defined by the Authority,” the new panel said.
“We, therefore, find on the preliminary point that further proceedings are unnecessary in the public interest,” they added.
The panel also pointed out that the union’s complaints over WASA’s alleged breaches of a Memoranda of Agreement between the parties, which is the subject of the IRO, are currently under judicial consideration in two separate cases before the Industrial Court and one before the High Court.
In a press release announcing the court’s decision, the authority said it was pleased by the outcome as it maintained that it was never involved in any wrongdoing.
“WASA is grateful to have received the court’s guidance and now that all legal hurdles have been cleared in relation to the restructuring, the Authority reiterates its consistent publicly stated position that it intends to and will always comply with the principles of good industrial relations practice throughout the implementation of the restructuring process, including consulting with the Recognised Majority Unions in good faith,” it said.
In July, Public Utilities Minister Marvin Gonzales announced that the Cabinet had approved the authority’s plan to restructure the State-owned utility.
While Gonzales did not go into much specifics about the plan, which was being formulated by the authority’s board, he did reveal it may include retrenching 50 percent of its current 426-member management team.
He said WASA will take on a new structure that will see five service areas with five managers who will directly report to the Chief Executive Officer.
He said the level of management must be reduced to ensure WASA runs more efficiently and is not caught up in too much red tape.
Gonzales also suggested that the plan would seek to reduce the company’s operating budget and drastically increase revenue collection.
The PSA’s legal team was led by Lord John Hendy, KC, while Attorney General Reginald Armour led WASA’s legal team before taking up his Cabinet appointment.
The Office of the Attorney General was represented by Gilbert Peterson, SC, and Kerwyn Garcia.