Communications Union presents shareholder with demands on Telem, Post Office

POSTED: 03/23/11 11:50 AM

St. Maarten – The Board of the St. Maarten Communication Union has pressed shareholder representative for the Telem Group of Companies – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams – to ensure that the company’s restructuring is finalized before the company finishes the process of finding a strategic partner. They also want Wescot-Williams, in her capacity as shareholder representative for the Postal Services St. Maarten to convene an urgent meeting to discuss developments at the company.

The demands are in separate letters that were submitted to and stamped as received by the Executive Office of the Prime Minister on March 22 (Tuesday). The briefs are signed by the union’s Vice President Ludson Evers and Assistant General Secretary Sherman Serastis. Both letters are attached to resolution documents that lay out the union’s position in full.

In terms of Telem the union states that since no one has announced from the shareholder, the Board or the company’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Helma Etnel had not announced they were deferring from the restructuring that they should be moving ahead. The process began in 2002 with a decision of the Executive Council, and that all the relevant documents are in place i.e. a social plan, transitional arrangement and Collective Labor Agreement have been put together and approved, but the process has not been moving.

Evers said the union has been told by Etnel that the company could go no further on the restructuring because there was no Chief Executive Officer. The union’s not ready to accept that though, pointing out that as head of the management team at Telem Etnel has signed off on key documents like the social plan, the transitional arrangement and the Collective Labor Agreement and the 20 million dollar bond the company recently floated.

“Finalizing this process is important for us because we have members from across the group who are now working together who may have the same job description, but are getting paid different salaries. So we want to avoid any friction that may come up and we also believe that finalizing the process will help to create job security. I also cannot tell you whether any of the roughly 187 employees in the group will lose their job because we have not seen either the new structure of the company or the formation plan to see how many people are needed in the various posts,” Evers said.

Linked to all this is the union’s concerns about ongoing efforts to find a strategic partner for the company. The union says they know very little about the partnering beyond the fact that negotiations are ongoing with three companies – Digicel, Lime and UTS.

“We are not involved in the neither the Steering Committee nor the Negotiating Team. We only learned of this in the media and we still have not received an official letter informing us that these are the steps being taken. Besides that though we believe that we must have the house in order before we can any sort of partnering,” Evers said.

Postal Services

Evers said the union was also pressing the prime minister to move quicker on the issues surrounding the post office because the roughly 40 employees feel insecure about their posts. While the government has created a company – Postal Services St. Maarten N.V. (PSS) – to take over the Post Office on St. Maarten from New Post Netherlands Antilles (NPNA), the staff and the third party contracts the transfer has not yet happened. The union says the Director of the NPNA Franklin Sluis has told them that the government did not follow the proper procedure and that they are only going to transfer the postal services.

“We have been informed that the government has to negotiate a social plan for the employees and that the new company PSS has to apply for and register a new postal code. So in our letter we have asked the prime minister to indicate if there is any working agreement between PSS and NPNA and how long it is valid, when PSS will be ready with the international affiliations, who will continue paying the employees’ salaries and how will PSS survive without third party contracts. We ask these questions because if, God forbid, Mr. Sluis stop doing business then our members will be out of a job. The social plan is the most important so that the workers can be protected,” Evers said.

It appears from the talks that the union has had with Sluis that NPNA is willing to hand over the postal service – delivery of letters and packages – but wants to hold on to the third party contracts to do money transfers and serve as an E-ZONE.

“They want to continue offering these services on all the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles and they also have plans to expand here in the region. We also have to remember that NPNA is a company so it is not like the government of the Netherlands Antilles self, where what is in St. Maarten automatically came to St. Maarten. NPNA is a company and St. Maarten is one of the shareholders so things are different,” Evers said


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