The Guyana Postal and Telecommunication Workers’ Union (GPTWU) is not buying the story of the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) of why it is sending home 120 workers over the next 12 months.
“We believe that it is a ploy by GTT to send home permanent staffers in favour of contracted employees who will be paid minimum wage. We are not ruling out seeking an injunction to block this development,” Union President Harold Shepherd said yesterday.
The union, which has bargaining rights for the majority of the 600-plus staffers of that US-owned telephone company, is planning to hold an emergency meeting with its members at 17:00hrs (5pm) today at its East Street headquarters.
Last week, amidst ongoing negotiations with Government over the conclusion of GTT’s two-decade monopoly on landline and international calls, the company announced plans to send home up to 120 staff members over the next 12 months.
A year ago, GTT had over 700 staffers, Shepherd explained yesterday. Already, six persons, some of them working for as many as 30 years – from GTT’s mechanical shop, the secretarial pool, and other departments – have been affected. GTT has the monopoly on landline and international calls.
Shepherd said that GTT is obligated under labour laws to pay a number of benefits to permanent staffers.
“By creating contract workers, GTT is hoping to escape from its obligations and therefore leave hundreds of workers who served them 20-30 years out in the cold.”
Shepherd said that the situation is so bad that for the last year or so, GTT has been locked with the union in talks to increase salaries and wages.
“They are offering two percent for union workers and a measly one percent for non-union workers. The matter has gone to conciliation.”
GTT last week explained that it has started a restructuring process of the company’s operations aimed at aligning the company with the new environment in which it provides services.
”GTT expects that about 120 positions would be made redundant over the next 12 months.”
GTT said that its announcement coincided with the separation of the first six employees under the restructuring programme.
”The six employees were drawn from multiple departments. All employees affected by the restructuring are receiving their full benefits and severance.”
”In addition, the company is providing opportunities for these employees to receive training to prepare them for their new endeavours.”
According to the telephone company, the news would not be totally unexpected to the staffers.
”The announcement was anticipated by employees who were briefed by the CEO, in several staff meetings and interactions held over past months, about the need to right-size the company to remain viable.”
Last week, Chief Executive Officer Justin Nedd, in an internal memorandum to all employees, made it clear that GTT is on the verge of really creating a company that is built for the future and “we must position ourselves to ensure that everyone understands his or her role and is driven in the same direction.”
GTT’s new shift in how it will conduct its business in the new telecoms market when other competing companies are allowed, was also mentioned.
”Talent Management is one of GTT’s top priorities for 2017 to ensure that the right employees are in the right roles. Through improving Talent Management, GTT expects to provide more training for employees, better tools and the leadership that would lead to improved productivity. The goal of Talent Management is to enable GTT to delight its customers and to grow revenue,” the company said.
Customer Care, it was stated, is the other top priority for GTT in 2017.
”Through restructuring, GTT expects to be able to meet and then exceed customers’ expectations.”
The last of the 2017 priorities for GTT is completing negotiations with the Government of Guyana on a mutually beneficial agreement in the context of the liberalization of the telecommunications sector.
”Liberalization will, for the first time in a long time, allow GTT the opportunity to operate on a playing field that is level. This means that for the first time it is likely that competitors in the same sector pay the same taxes and fees as GTT has over the last 26 years.
CEO Nedd added: “At the end, we will come out stronger as we shift from a technical-centric organization to an organization that is focused on satisfying the customers’ needs and, eventually, consistently delighting our customers.”
In 2016, after a number of years in limbo under the previous administration, the Coalition Government managed to pass laws that allowed for new companies to compete with GTT in an array of services that the country is hoping will swiftly advance technological development.
However, the establishment of a structure that will facilitate the process has been slow with GTT. The company has applied to have its landline rates hiked.
Consumers have been calling for faster internet connectivity and with thousands of hinterland residents without a landline, there are a whole host of services that Government wants introduced.
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