COMMUNICATION Workers Union (CWU) general secretary Clyde Elder is questioning how TSTT could move from profit to loss involving hundreds of millions dollars in a matter of months. He asked yesterday how the company could have declared an $8 million profit for the period ending last March, but for the period ending September, claim a $433 million loss. He accused TSTT of being untruthful about its figures. Asked about high employee costs, Elder said this was incurred by higher levels of staff. He said some 1,600 bargaining unit staff are paid $332 million annually and that, to him, suggests that 400 individuals at the higher levels are collectively raking in $800 million.
Elder led a lunchtime protest of his members yesterday against the decision to retrench some 500 workers with immediate effect. He said the action was done in bad faith.
The demonstration outside the company’s office at the corner of Independence Square and Edwards Street, Port of Spain, was supported by other unions including the Oilfield Workers Trade Union and Steel Workers Union, who Elder thanked for their solidarity. He also thanked Public Services Association head Watson Duke for his verbal support.
Elder claimed that the retrenchment came during ongoing talks between the company and the union, adding, “It is in total contravention of the discussions in which we had engaged and have not finished.”
According to Elder, TSTT’s act of retrenching breached good industrial relations practices and procedures.
“What they have done is high-handed, dishonest and deceitful. This was a plan by the government to have it executed in this manner.”
Elder said the protest was aimed at sending a message to the government to take its hands off the working class. He said the CWU is considering its options, including legal action.
“We are calling on the Government to pay its debt of over $426 million to TSTT.” Asked about a role for Minister of Public Utilities Robert Le Hunte in the matter, Elder described the minister as “clueless” and as passively accepting all that was said by the TSTT leadership. He criticised the company for not following the usual retrenchment practice of “first in, last out.”
“Persons that were there for over 35 years were retrenched, yet they have managers remaining who were in here for just five months. So how come they are here and we are gone?”
He confirmed the retrenchment letters had given workers details of their severance packages. Asked how the workers felt, Elder said, “They are concerned. They are unsure what will happen with their future. They have a high level of anxiety.”
While the CWU had no problems with TSTT switching from copper cables to a fiber network as the latter can create new jobs, Elder said these new posts had been placed outside the bargaining unit or in places within the unit that the company desired.