Telecommunications Services of Trinidad and Tobago moved ahead with restructuring plans on Tuesday by retrenching 468 workers, a move now temporarily stayed by an Industrial Court injunction initiated by the Communication Workers Union.
This, however, is but a temporary reprieve, as the court cannot rescind the process and, in any event, the union’s major argument is one of a procedure, in terms of a 45-day notice of impending retrenchment not being followed.
CWU boss Clyde Elder would not have been in the dark on this impending action either, given that this was the second time in under four years that the company has taken such action, which it continues to deem as critical for its sustainability.
Back in November 2018, facing back-to-back annual revenue declines and saddled with a $1.8 billion debt burden under then-CEO Dr Ronald Walcott, TSTT also sent home 503 workers, noting that this was the first phase of a sustainability plan which forecast more cuts going ahead.
In fact, it is important to note that Walcott said then that the company was at an inflexion point where it was transitioning from a traditional legacy company to being a provider of mobile, broadband and ICT services to lead the country’s economic development.
However, almost four years on and the company is initiating further retrenchment but is still in the same dire position, having not significantly addressed the operational issues to turn its revenue loss around, despite having boasted of several major investment initiatives in this period, including 5G, which it claimed would give it a competitive edge in the market.
In its latest argument, the company is again citing a revenue loss in the financial year ended March 31, 2021, of $453 million, citing the pandemic, economic and technological factors as being at the core of its poor performance.
Of course, the company, like other state entities, is saddled by some of the obvious issues, chief of which is a huge wage bill, fed, as the public is all too familiar with, by the job for the boys and girls syndrome that occurs from having to follow ill-advised and unsustainable mandates from ruling governments over the years.
This legacy is why the company has now had to retrench almost 1,000 workers in the four-year period when a global economic slump and now the COVID-19 pandemic has seen inflation soar and made life harder for the average citizen. Hundreds of workers and their families now face a future of uncertainty, where there are few alternative job opportunities on the market.
On that note, TSTT is thus unlikely to turn its course around sufficiently enough to return to its glory days when it held a monopoly and is now being outmanoeuvred by smaller and more innovative companies quickly gaining bigger pieces of the telecommunications pie.
As such, no matter what the CWU does in court, it will not be able to save the workers listed for termination.
This media house thus hopes that new CEO Lisa Agard and the Cabinet sub-committee led by Camille Robinson-Regis, appointed in March this year and tasked with reviewing the company and making recommendations on its future, have a feasible plan going forward to revive its fortunes and save the jobs of employees who survive this latest action.