Why is Ionics project stalled?

I am a frustrated contractor and I would like to know what is happening at the Barbados Water Authority. I want to know why after more than two years of the announcement of the Ionics water project it has not been started.

It is my understanding that this project is critical to the development of over 12,000 lots, residential and commercial, in the St. Philip/Christ Church area on which development is stalled over the lack of water.

The Ionics project, as I understand it, is to construct three new water mains, from the Belle Pumping Station to Bussa, from Fort George to Searles in Christ Church, and from Britton Hill to Providence in Christ Church. As a result of the inability to start the project, the Staple Grove Housing Project is stalled, the Lowthers Hill Housing Project is stalled, several commercial and housing projects have been started at Searles and the construction of a new secondary school in the Searles area is stalled.

These are critical projects that will create thousands of jobs and which will drive much needed economic activity in Barbados.

In the interest of this country you want to tell me that the BWA’s management and the Barbados Worker Union in two years cannot resolve their differences? My investigations revealed that the BWA wants to retain the right for laying the water mains. The use of pickaxes and jack hammers to lay the mains and these methods cannot be used to effectively and efficiently to place large mains between ten inches and eighteen inches in diameter.

The type of tracks required for these large mains are cut by heavy duty excavators which the BWA does not have and is not in a financial position to purchase. In fact, the BWA management has estimated that to complete the three mains under discussion, (two 12-inch diameter mains and one 18-inch diameter main) using picks and jack hammers will take over ten years to achieve.

If the BWA is not in a financial state to acquire the modern equipment, why can’t the union and the BWA agree to let private contractors cut the tracks for the mains. The pipes can be placed by the BWA staff, connected by the BWA staff and pressure tested by the BWA staff.

My investigations revealed that the BWA accepted this same arrangement which was used when the northern upgrades were put in place. When the northern upgrades mains were placed the private sector cut the tracks, the BWA laid, connected and pressure tested the pipes and were supervised by a BWA project manager. Why can’t this be done again?

I am calling on the BWU and BWA to work out this matter in the interest of the country. I am a sub-contractor desperately waiting on this project to start. My business is desperately in need of work or we will have to close our doors. There are three others in this situation.

I thought unions were about job creation and job maintenance. Sir Roy I am calling on you to get together with the BWA to resolve this impasse and I am calling on the minister, Dr David Estwick to resolve the matter in the national interest.

— Mark Briggs

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