WORKERS at TTT Limited, who just Thursday were employed as Caribbean New Media Group (CNMG) staff, are questioning why close to $200,000 was spent on re-branding the state owned media company while they are being owed gratuity.
Sources said some 50 workers are owed gratuity and using the lowest average of just $3,000 per month for each worker, the company owes an average of $1,080,000. Workers said the payment for gratuity is something budgeted and are incensed as to why they are not being paid their just dues.
Newsday saw letters signed by the company’s CEO Wendell Constantine informing the workers that they will be paid their gratuity within three months of their contracts ending.
The last set of contracts ended in June and were three-year contracts.
The workers were later informed that they will not be paid because there is no cash to do so. Workers argued that monies were being sourced for re-branding CNMG to TTT but they were being left in the cold.
They are also concerned as to why their new contracts have them employed at CNMG and not TTT and questioned the legality of their now one-year contracts given that CNMG no longer exists. Employees told Newsday that the re-brand meant that they were now employed by a new entity and asked what were the rules and regulations of TTT. Some argued that they can’t face any financial institutions with a CNMG contract and a TTT job letter as they may be faced with rejection of any loan applications.
Speaking with Newsday hours after the relaunch of TTT, chairman Lisa Agard appealed to the workers to hold on as she assured they will be paid as soon as it’s financially possible. She added that there was “nothing she can do” to pay the workers as the company is heavily reliant on government subvention and was not yet self-sustaining.
“The situation is very serious, the company is not generating sufficient cash to cover its expenses. We are very heavily reliant on the subvention and sometimes every month we don’t get enough to cover gratuity and salaries. We need to therefore schedule payment so when we get cash and when we have something available we will pay according to a schedule,” Agard said adding the workers deserve to be paid as she called on them to be patient.
Workers said they have no issue with the re-branding but were upset seeing signs painted while their bank accounts remained empty of their gratuity.
Some questioned if their gratuity was used to relaunch TTT, a suggestion Agard dismissed. She added the cost of the re-brand was very low, “no more than $100,000” and the relaunch on Thursday amounted to $80,000.
Regarding job security for the workers, Agard said no decision has been made about not renewing or terminating contracts.
She added TTT is looking for young fresh talent to develop as it is part of the company’s mantra which is that they are “born again” and need to move forward with new talent.
TTT was first launched in 1962 and last aired in 2005, in June the following year CNMG emerged from the ashes to replace the once beloved and for a time, sole television station in TT. On August 24, last year then communication minister Maxie Cuffie announced CNMG was going to be closed and a new company with the ability to be self sufficient replace it. Earlier this year, that plan was changed and CNMG was re-branded and took the name of the first incarnation of the television station to be the umbrella title for it and the three radio stations as well.
Agard added that the hope is that as TTT produces and broadcasts local content, it will generate greater viewership and revenue through advertising. She said TTT is in talks with Film TT, Animae Caribe and COSTATT, to name a few, to generate local quality content that will be backed by the TTT brand. The intention, she said, is to create a “distribution eco-system” with a mutually profitable business for all involved.
“This is an amazing opportunity to take this brand and turn it into a relevant media organisation again. We have slipped so far in the rankings.
We have an opportunity to start again and turn over a new leaf and start again and create relevant content. Our aim is to make the company viable,” she added.