Union ready to tackle other issues after TSTT CFO’s firing

Communications Workers Union secretary general Joanne Ogeer. - File photo
Communications Workers Union secretary general Joanne Ogeer. - File photo

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) says it is ready to move on from last week's sacking of Shiva Ramnarine as Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago (TSTT) chief financial officer (CFO) and is focused on improving the company for the sake of customers.

On Friday, TSTT issued a notice to staff, advising of Ramnarine's termination. However, as of Tuesday, the reason for his dismissal had not been made public.

Ramnarine is the latest high-profile exit after TSTT experienced a major cyber attack in November, which led to the departure of its then CEO Lisa Agard shortly after.

On Monday, Newsday spoke with CWU secretary general Joanne Ogeer, who said although the union was yet to learn the reason for Ramnarine's firing, it was focused now on addressing other pressing concerns.

“I'm still awaiting information from the company on the matter. (The union) cannot confirm if the departure from the company was by termination, as being stated in the public domain,” she said, adding that the union could “only rely on the release to the employees via the company's intranet.

“The departure of Shiva Ramnarine is welcome, but now resides in the past.

"The next six months will be critical, but both stakeholders will be working together to have one common result, which is to save TSTT.”

Ogeer said the union’s executive and TSTT’s corporate leadership team are prepared to meet on Thursday, under Article 34 of the subsisting collective agreements, “to speak on the growth, development and advancement of the organisation.”

She added that the union is focused on having TSTT return to a position of being "poised for profitability."

TSTT, in its notice to staff on Friday, said, “(The company) can confirm the departure of its former CFO, Mr Shiva Ramnarine.

“We, however, categorically deny that his departure was in any way related to the cyber attack.

TSTT experienced a massive cyber attack on October 9, which was only made public three weeks later when the ransomware group responsible for the attack publicly claimed to have access to 6GB of the company's data.Customer data, including credit-card and other personal information, was later found to have been posted on the dark web – an area of the internet accessible on certain browsers, and used mostly used to keep internet activity anonymous TSTT denied Ramnarine's departure was related to the cyber attack.

"Mr Ramnarine served the company well during his tenure and we wish him well in his future endeavours,” the company said in its statement.

Newsday reported on Ramnarine’s termination from TSTT after his lawyers confirmed his dismissal in a press release last Friday. They did not say why he was fired.

“Our client’s termination is in no way based on the finding of wrongdoing, misconduct, breach on his part,” his lawyers said, adding that they served CNC3 and the Trinidad Guardian with a cease-and-decist notice after they published and aired what it described as “erroneous and misleading” reporting on his dismissal.

Attorney Karina Singh, on behalf of Ramnarine, issued a the notice to lead editor Ria Rambally and executive producer Sampson Nanton, saying the report contained “manufactured falsehoods intended to cause harm to our client.”

On Friday, CWU secretary general Joanne Ogeer also issued a statement saying the move was long overdue.

“As an advocate for decent employment, the CWU seldom celebrates the displacement of anyone from (employment). However, in this instance, the union feels vindicated, having been in the fore, clamouring for this decision for the last two years.”

Newsday was unable to reach TSTT chairman Sean Roach on Monday for a comment on Ramnarine's dismissal, his replacement and other matters concerning the company.

Union’s vision for TSTT

Newsday asked Ogeer what she thought the company should do differently moving forward, to which she responded, “The union's position should be premised around the health of the business.

“Closer monitoring of the debt (is needed) and finding new business, including but not limited to 5G.”

Ogeer said she has not yet spoken with the company at length about her proposals, nor does she want to divulge them too early.

Customer satisfaction should be a priority. TSTT, she stressed, also needs to adapt to the use of cloud based services.

“Customer satisfaction and retention are stymied because the company erred by closing down all stores, yet at Nelson Exchange there's a payment centre for the subsidiary (Amplia).

“Have we forgotten the TSTT customers? A mainstream issue is the ability to collect revenue from third parties. Proper accountability is tantamount to treat with revenue collection,” she said.

She said the union is not an adversary and is keen on working together with the executive team to initiate change within the majority state-owned company.

“I'm hoping the company can see the union as a stakeholder and not as a rival,” said Ogeer.

“We're here to balance and ensure decent work for the employees who are our members. The employees are the engine room in the organisation, and the company expects them to do so much with no training since redeployment, which was in their letters of redeployment."

Ogeer said employees are willing and dedicated to TSTT but there was more to be done to improve the human and industrial relations resource departments.

“This department operates in a vacuum
no promotions, frivolous matters, which can be rectified through dialogue, etcetera.”

Acting CEO Ken Western, she noted, has shown interest in meeting staff and “understanding the business.”

“In this vein, continued dialogue between stakeholders can only yield results.”


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