The Banking, Insurance and General Workers Union (BIGWU) says while an agreement has been reached with management of Guardian Media Limited (GML) on the use of LIFO; Last In, First Out, for planned job cuts at the company, no agreement has been reached on any workers to be sent home.
GML is a subsidiary of the ANSA McAL Group of Companies (ANSA McAL).
The union was responding today to a report published in Newsday last Saturday, in which ANSA McAL's Group Human Resource Director and Media Sector Head, Teresa White, said, "The union has been informed of the names. We’ve agreed with the union (on) the process, the selection criteria. We’re doing it strictly on a LIFO (last in, first out) basis; as is deemed best practice."
White was responding to a question about the planned GML job cuts while addressing an August 10 press conference on the Group`s results for the six months ended June 30, 2017.
According to BIGWU, "While Ms White is correct in stating that the selection criteria of Last In, First Out (LIFO) was agreed on, Ms. White who is not even directly involved in the consultation process but perhaps is pulling the strings behind the scenes, neglected to mention a few key points."
These are, "In the first phase of this restructuring exercise when 16 workers were retrenched, there was never any agreement on criteria and (GML) failed to follow the LIFO principle; No scientific evidence was ever produced to support surplus labour; No rationale or justification has been provided with respect to the second phase to support any proposed retrenchment; and The consultation process was scuttled by the Company on both occasions as evidenced by a letter to the Union dated August 7, 2017 indicating that the Company had compiled its list of employees “deemed surplus to its operations”."
Citing an article published in the Trinidad Guardian last Saturday, BIGWU said GML was quoted as saying "we remain committed to positive and fruitful dialogue with the union in search for the best possible long term outcome".
"Similar sentiments were echoed by (GML's) Managing Director (Lucio Mesquita) in an email to staff dated August 7, 2017, where he is quoted as saying: "We are continuing the consultation process with the union regarding the latest phase of our restructuring. The consultation is going well, with both parties working in good faith and maintaining a spirit of open and honest dialogue". These statements belies what has taken place by virtue of the (GML's) calculated abortion of the consultation process," BIGWU argued.
Referring to a statement made by ANSA McAL Chairman, A. Norman Sabga, at the same August 10 press conference, the union said "Sabga also seems to be not aware of what is happening as he was quoted as saying...that they have "introduced new technology which is going to automate certain aspects of the print side of the business…" but this is relative to the first phase (of job cuts)."
"The fact is," BIGWU continued, "that in this second phase, there is no introduction of new technology and it involves areas in Print and Television, while in the first phase, the "new" technology that was introduced did not absorb the retrenched workers` functions as claimed, as these functions continue to be performed by other ‘warm’ human workers."
BIGWU then asked, "Is this a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing? Or is it a well-orchestrated ploy to simply terminate workers using retrenchment as a guise?"
"It is interesting to note that right after CNC3 aired the Union`s media conference of August 11, 2017, GML issued a statement to refute the Union`s claims ending by saying, "GML will not engage in negotiations in the Media". We posit that they are already guilty of their own rebuke," the union argued.
Asked about the status of negotiations between GML and the union on pending staff cuts, BIGWU told Newsday that it remains "willing to continue consultations."
BIGWU also said it has responded to GML's letter dated August 7, 2017, requesting "specific information that can assist the union to fully understand their rationale and justification for declaring surplus while discussions are taking place. We await their response."
Contacted for comment on what the union had to say, ANSA McAL today directed Newsday to a statement issued by GML last Friday; the same day on which BIGWU held a press conference about GML and other current labour issues in Trinidad and Tobago.
The statement reads, "BIGWU President Vincent Cabrera made certain statements regarding (GML's) performance and its relationship with its majority shareholder, ANSA McAL Limited. As a publicly traded company, our financial statements are published every quarter and are independently audited on an annual basis in accordance with international accounting standards. We have nothing to hide and we stand by our financial statements. As a result, (GML) totally rejects Mr Cabrera’s inaccurate allegations. Furthermore, we will not engage in conducting negotiations through the media."
"At the same conference, Mr Cabrera erroneously stated that (GML) had served retrenchment notices on "33 plus 16 workers". In 2016, 16 workers were retrenched after the conclusion of an extensive consultation process. However, we wish to emphasise that the current consultation process has not been concluded and no further retrenchment notices have been served to date."
The company added, "We remain committed to positive and fruitful dialogue with the union in search for the best possible long term outcome for all (GML) stakeholders."
"It must also be noted that good faith and established industrial relations collective bargaining practices dictate that it is inappropriate for us to make any comment relating to potential restructuring before the consultation process has been completed," ANSA McAL stated.
Responding to the latter comment on negotiations, BIGWU said, "We challenge them to return to the bargaining table."