CWU leader rings TSTT alarm: Hundreds facing axe

Communication Workers Union (CWU) secretary general Clyde Elder.  -
Communication Workers Union (CWU) secretary general Clyde Elder. -

Head of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) Clyde Elder, after a meeting with TSTT’s management on Tuesday, is claiming that as much as 600 workers are likely to face the axe in the company’s restructuring exercise.

Elder told Newsday that 425-455 unionised workers (senior and junior) are expected to be retrenched, and with contract staff and executives the figure is likely to be around 600.

Estate Police Association president Deryck Richardson, who also had a meeting with the company’s management on Tuesday, told Newsday the jobs of his 36 unionised security officers were at risk. He suspects retrenchment was a ploy to replace TSTT's security unit with a private company.

In 2018, some 700 workers were retrenched as TSTT complained of a $478 million financial loss and "high employee costs."

Ahead of retrenchment at TSTT, the Government has dubbed WASA as overstaffed and vowed to privatise the Port of Spain port, while private sector pandemic pressures peaked last week with Scotiabank's lay-off of 149 workers from two branches set for closure, plus 450 workers laid off by CAL last June.

On Wednesday, TSTT refused to confirm or deny reports of fresh retrenchment, saying negotiations were still underway.

Elder said, in their meeting the union had to repeatedly cajole a TSTT manager to say how many workers were under threat.

"We had to pry it out of him. We had to virtually beg him to give us that figure."

Elder said TSTT would not state names but just positions to be retrenched, and had given no timeline. He predicted retrenchments by March 31, TSTT's financial year-end.

Elder said the CWU had received solidarity messages from JTUM, NATUC and FITUN, plus the Steel Workers Union, BIGWU, TTUTA and others.

Richardson said the EPA had taken a 0-0-0 wage freeze in 2018 to preserve jobs. Like Elder, he said TSTT provided few details at their Tuesday meeting.

"At present, officers are very discomforted. It seems, from what we could deduce, that the entire security department will be sent home."

While TSTT's human resource department will keep 55 workers, he did not know if any of these posts would be security staff.

In a statement, TSTT said principles of good faith consultation with the unions meant it should not conduct consultations through the media.

"It would therefore be inappropriate for the company to comment or to provide the details requested via the media at this time."

TSTT later reiterated this position in a second statement saying it had met employees and unions over restructuring, but did not feel free to publicise details of these meetings or the ongoing consultative process. It said TSTT was a responsible employer, committed to good industrial relations practice, and good faith consultation.

"Once the consultation process is completed, TSTT will be pleased to answer such enquiries as it is at liberty to at that stage.

"While the unions may choose to air their grievances via the media, TSTT does not agree that it should itself follow suit."

However, in January, TSTT had lamented a revenue fall of $453 million – earnings down from $2.49 billion to $2.04 billion, blamed on the pandemic and rival platforms like WhatsApp and Zoom.

“Given our current challenges," Agard had said, "TSTT considers that it must now urgently restructure to remain competitive."


"CWU leader rings TSTT alarm: Hundreds facing axe"

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