More than 250 employees of the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) could lose their jobs, and Barbadians could be forced to pay more for water, if the state-own entity’s new boss has his way.
General Manager Keithroy Halliday, who has already slapped a freeze on hiring, is warning that these measures are necessary for the water company to survive.
In a 25-page document entitled Barbados Water Authority General Manager’s Briefing Notes for Minister, Halliday recommended several measures to reduce costs, including a shorter work week and a shift system.
“The BWA needs to reduce the staff complement over a three year period by one fourth through restructuring and early retirement packages. BWA needs to put in place a shift system to effect a reduction in overtime costs by 50 per cent. The BWA will consider reducing staffing costs by introducing four-day work weeks and part-time employment where possible. BWA has informally placed a freeze on hiring,” the new boss told Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick in the document, a copy of which was obtained by Barbados TODAY.
Halliday, who only took up office in February this year, did not sugar coat the financial predicament of the island’s sole drinking water provider. Following his recent assessment of the company’s operations since succeeding Dr John Mwansa, who had acted in the position, the new general manager said the water company was projecting a net loss ranging from $19 million to $27 million, and a cash deficit of between $49 million and $127 million for 2018-2020.
“The sum result of the various recent undertakings described in this brief, made in an effort to allow the BWA to procure sufficient water for the foreseeable future, has negatively impacted on its current monthly cash outlay by approximately $3.2 million. This has therefore reduced the BWA’s ability to meet and service capital investments, some financial and all operational activities. To that end, the BWA will be seriously challenged to survive the foreseeable future, unless [his recommendations were implemented,” Halliday cautioned.
The water company boss strongly suggested slashing operational expenses by over 50 per cent, quadrupling of Government’s subvention in the upcoming year, and significant refinancing of all investment and financial activities requiring significant monthly cash flow outlays or debt servicing.
“The BWA is proposing an increase in the tariffs to generate a minimum of an additional $2.5 million monthly or $30 million annually,” the new boss added.
If Halliday gets his way, customers will have their water bills go up by 25 per cent under one of four methods of calculating a rate hike.
The proposal is for consumers to be billed an additional $24.80 for the first eight cubic metres of water and $116.60 for the next 20 cubic metres, with the final tier of 40 cubic metres remaining at the current $311.20.
The general manager is proposing that commercial customers who are currently charged a rate of $4.66 per cubic meter once the calculated charge exceeds $32.00, should now have to pay $5.83 per cubic metre, with the rate for the Barbados Port Authority to rise from $8.08 to $10.10.
He said a preliminary analysis suggested that all customers should pay a basic connection service charge.
However, Chairman of the board Dr Atlee Brathwaite told Barbados TODAY Monday evening he could not fully support the general manager’s medicine, because it was too strong for a Government-run entity.
Brathwaite said while he acknowledged that measures had to be taken to ensure the company remained in business, the implementation of any drastic strategies at this time had to be carefully thought through, with consumers and workers in mind.
“I will not support any such stringent measures at this stage. What I will support is to see to what extent we can enhance productivity and try to employ a 24 hour service. What we will also need to do is manage any overtime. We cannot get away from overtime because of the fact that we do not have a 24 hour service. But certainly I will find it extremely difficult to take that strong medicine at this stage,” Brathwaite said.
“As an economist I will understand that there are certain measures that have to be taken. But we have to be cognizant of the fact that those measures will impact negatively on our customers and indeed we also have to recognize that any drastic action would certainly affect the welfare of our employees,” the BWA chairman added.