TSTT allows retrenched workers to stay until July 15 as CWU continues to fight restructuring

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

TSTT House located #1 Edward Street, Port of Spain – FILE PHOTO

THE Communications Workers Union (CWU) has denied that it has made any agreement with the Telecommunications Services of TT Ltd (TSTT) that would pave the way for the restructuring process and retrenchment of over 400 workers to proceed without disruptions.

In a release on Tuesday morning, TSTT said both parties had come to an agreement that would see the exercise move forward “without delay.”

“Under the terms of the agreement, TSTT will reissue the notices of retrenchment to the 376 unionised workers on May 31, 2022, with the same date but with the last date of employment being July 15, 2022, instead of June 1, 2022, as was stated in the initial letters of separation.

“TSTT previously used the June 1 date because the company’s collective agreement allowed for separated employees to leave immediately and receive payment in lieu of the statutory 45 days’ notice. The workers will now remain employees of TSTT until July 15, 2022.”

The release added, “All workers who received notices of retrenchment, but who wished nevertheless to do so, were allowed to report for work.

“Some 44 of the 376 affected workers put themselves on a list of persons wanting to report for work; but fewer than 20 turned out on any one day.”

But in a press conference, later that day CWU head Clyde Elder, at the union’s Henry Street office, discredited TSTT’s announcement saying the union never made an agreement with the company.

“Let me set the record straight and make it abundantly clear: the union has not agreed nor accepted that a restructuring and retrenchment is warranted in TSTT.”

After four months of consultations with the unions, on May 31, TSTT issued the retrenchment notices to 468 employees, some with almost immediate effect, saying this was needed for TSTT’s survival.

On the same day, CWU approached the Industrial Court for a 14-day injunction to stop TSTT from retrenching workers, claiming the company had breached good industrial relations practice by not giving the workers 45 days’ notice.

However, an injunction was not granted.

A copy of the order showed Industrial Court president Deborah Thomas-Felix advised TSTT to give the workers the recommended 45 days’ notice of retrenchment in accordance with the provisions of the Retrenchment and Severance Benefits Act, Chapter 88:13 as of May 31.

Both parties returned to court on Tuesday morning with the company agreeing to follow Thomas-Felix’s recommendation.

In its release, TSTT said the new agreement would not reduce employee’s severance packages in any way.

At the CWU press conference, Elder said the only agreement made was for TSTT to act within the law regarding the statutory 45 days’ notice. The fight to reverse the retrenchment move is still on, he added.

He said attorneys from each side talked on Tuesday after TSTT reached out to the union to agree on the 45 days notice.

“They just admitted that they had done wrong and they want to make it right. What we have gotten is what we went to court to complain about, the 45 days notice. So the union was successful.”

Elder hoped talks in the coming days along with an objection letter sent to TSTT and the Ministry of Labour on June 7 outlining ten grounds on which the union rejected the retrenchments could save at least some of the jobs of the retrenched workers.

Some of the objections include incorrect service dates of employees, insufficient information on the breakdown of the severance packages, and concerns over the redeployment of several employees.

Elder reiterated he was not convinced that the ongoing restructuring process aims to make the company efficient and reliable.

He said TSTT’s intentions had been “vile” from inception.

TSTT’s manager of media and stakeholder relations Janelle David could not be reached for comment.