A word of words has erupted between former Chairman of the National Water and Sewerage Authority (NAWASA), Terrence Forrester and the former head of the union representing workers at the state-owned utility, Senator Chester Humphrey on the issue of contract work at the utility.
The two are blaming each other of missing an opportunity while involved with NAWASA to address the contract situation at the country’s lone water facility.
Forrester was Chairman of the Board of Directors of NAWASA until he was fired from the post last year following a row with Prime Minister on his ambitions to become the ruling party’s candidate for the South St. George constituency in the upcoming general election.
Humphrey is the former President-General of the Technical & Allied Workers Union (TAWU) which is locked in an impasse with NAWASA on contract work.
The new union boss, Senator Andre Lewis took limited industrial action against NAWASA to force it to give permanent employment to workers who have been engaged on contract over the years.
According to Forrester who served on the NAWASA’s board for a number of years, he believes that Sen. Humphrey while holding the position of President General of TAWU was in a very good position to champion the cause to make the contract situation a non-issue.
This brought instant reaction from Humphrey who pointed his fingers at Forrester as the one who was in the best position as Chairman of NAWASA to help put an end to this situation and branded the former Chairman as a hypocrite for now speaking out on the issue.
Forrester used the platform of a current affairs programme on a local FM station to respond to the brutal attack on him by the former TAWU President-General who is now the current President of the Senate.
He said that while serving as Chairman of the NAWASA board he had engaged Humphrey on the very issue of contract employment.
“I said to Sen. Humphrey at the time …that the law is unclear regarding contract work in Grenada and that I would ask Management of NAWASA to officially write to the Attorney General’s office seeking clarity. That was done, the response came back … the law is unclear on the matter.
“After receiving the response from the Attorney General, we went back to Sen. Humphrey explained the situation …. that there was a need for the law to be amended.”
Forrester stated that Humphrey had all the opportunity while serving in the Senate as the then Labour representative and being the President General of TAWU to raise and to champion the cause for an amendment to the law.
He said, “He (Humphrey) did nothing regarding the amendment to that law – he did not lie down in the front of the Parliament door as he did with Carib Brewery several years ago”.
This is reference to the action undertaken by the then TAWU boss in a dispute a few years ago with the management of the local brewing company.
Forrester suggested that it was not in Humphrey’s best interest at the time “to raise alarm bells regarding the matter… but resulting from my statement on another network, he took that opportunity to say that I am a hypocrite and that I am opportunistic in the matter which is very unfortunate because I have no such intent whatsoever because I am still of the opinion that the law needs to be amended.”
However, Forrester admitted that both he and Humphrey missed an opportunity to address the contract issue situation back then but that the trade unionist was in a better position than him to deal with it.
He said: “In retrospect, we all missed an opportunity because the right is the right and it will continue to be the right. The fact remains that you cannot or it ought not to…it’s unchristian like to continue employing someone on contract year in year out and not afford that person the opportunity for permanence so that they get the benefits of other permanent workers.
“…It was more in the interest of Sen. Humphrey at the time to raise concerns regarding that matter and champion the change of that law to the benefit of workers generally throughout Grenada. He had that moral obligation as he has done in the past, championing the cause of workers – that was his responsibility. I am no hypocrite and I am not opportunistic in this matter. If anyone is a hypocrite and opportunistic then it’s him by virtue of his abandonment of workers and the positions that he now holds.
The Forrester explanation brought an instant rebuke from Sen. Humphrey who told the call-in programme that he did what was in his capability to be done at the time.
He said: “When I held these discussions with the then Chairman of the board (Forrester), I spelt out to him in great detail…the principle of being able to contract above the law. I had initiate the collective agreement which has put an end to this contract work in the way in which it was issued and that (is) what I was asking NAWASA to do …they didn’t have to go to the law, they had to go to the collective agreement which is even clearer than the law and written so that the ordinary worker could understand it.
“I don’t know what Mr. Forrester is referring to but I can tell you I discharged my obligations to the workers free. I think it is clear to all those who are listening why Mr. Forrester is doing what he is doing and I have no difficulty with that.
Sen. Humphrey spoke of attempts made in the past to hold industrial action on the matter as it was indeed a matter worth “lying” down for where the NAWASA workers are concerned.
“We had planned on more than one occasion to take industrial action on this matter but there were some factors which made it (impossible)…my very good comrade and very close friend Mr. Forrester on this issue is being hypocritical”, he said.