Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Wilfred Abrahams, congratulates BWA workers on-site at a burst repair in progress at Tamarind Avenue, St. Michael. Also pictured, Director of Engineering, Charles Leslie (white hard hat). (S.Forde-Craigg/BGIS)

Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Wilfred Abrahams, has declared that the Barbados Water Authority’s (BWA) Extended Hours Burst Repairs Project is a “major victory”.

Speaking to the media at an on-site burst repair in progress at Tamarind Avenue, St. Michael, Minister Abrahams, along with Director of Engineering, Charles Leslie, and Senior Driver, who is the President of the Barbados Workers’ Union at the BWA, Carl Boyce, explained the rationale for the project and gave an update on its progress.

The Extended Hours Burst Repairs Project was proposed during a deconstruct-reconstruct exercise to address the inefficiencies within the BWA, as well as how it would seek to carry out their operations better.  The board, management, workers and the union came together to flesh out ideas on how best to do so going forward.

The proposal from the workers included the costing, structure, implementation and execution plans for the project.

The project’s overall goal was to address the non-revenue water and the high volume of reports received by the authority from the public about burst pipes, leaks on water mains and service lines across the island, and to address those reports in a timelier and efficient manner.

Commencing on November 21 last year, it engaged personnel within the BWA, including the plumbing, district and mason crews, inspectors, clerical officers and engineers, who worked together to achieve the goal of reducing physical leaks in a timely manner. 

To achieve that goal, 14 plumbing crews had their former work hours, which were 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., changed to 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday to Saturday, with three to four crews working weekends and public holidays.

“I’m happy to say that seven weeks into the project yielded fantastic results ….  This has been a successful experiment ….  We took a decision as management and the board to be hands-off, and turn the project over to the workers.  I hope that this can be a template going forward for cooperative arrangements and working within the statutory corporations and companies in Barbados.”

Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Wilfred Abrahams.

Mr. Leslie reported that approximately 11,000 calls were on the system, and when they did an assessment, 6,000 of those were actually jobs, and a number of them were just duplicates.

“We’re actually current now with the complaints that are coming in … and we definitely know that this (project) is addressing those leaks in a timely manner, so it makes the system more reliable.  You have more water available in the system, so you can then get water to customers who were probably having low pressure before and outages,” he said.

Mr. Boyce elaborated on the collaboration between the workers, management and the board.  He said: “We put our ideas on the table and those ideas were accepted and put into operation, and today, we can say that the burst pipes across Barbados have decreased ….  We wanted to deliver a service, and the union played an integral part in this, and we want to thank you minister for this initiative because I see this as the way we can work together to improve the service that the BWA is prepared to give Barbados.”

Minister Abrahams stated that going forward, all major projects that are labour intensive will see labour brought in to plan work exercises and the workflow. 

He said: “If we start together at the beginning, planning together, then people are going to own the project and everybody works harder when they all have a stake in seeing that it is successfully completed.

“It is no longer us against them, we’re all one team.  The aim of the BWA is to deliver safe, efficient, potable drinking water to all of its customers and we can’t do it by ourselves, the whole BWA, at every single level, and at every single department, needs to come together to get that done, and this is our success story.”

The Extended Hours Burst Repairs Project is slated to be completed by Friday, February 14, and repairs carried out under the project have been closed in the BWA’s Work Management System. 

Both Mr. Leslie and Mr. Boyce gave the assurance that procedures are being put in place so the authority would not experience the backlog they had in addressing burst and leaks within the system, and any reports made would be managed in a timely manner.

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