MP Heyliger against TelEm/UTS merger: Fears workers will lose jobs

POSTED: 03/19/14 10:22 AM

St. Maarten – Last week Thursday the management of Telem Group and the St. Maarten Communication Union (SMCU) had a meeting to discuss several matters. The main topic in the four hour long meeting held was the merger of Telem Group and UTS, the SMCU said in a press release yesterday.

Questions were posed about the press release in the local media of February 3 sent out by the Prime Minister and as well as the press release of March 13 sent out by the Minister of Telecommunications, SMCU said.

According to SMC, Telem Group CFO Helma Etnel claimed not to have any involvement or any knowledge on the two press releases.

“Executive management sent out an internal release urging personnel not to be confused by articles based on rumors in the local newspapers, as it “gives the incorrect impression.”However, in the same meeting last week Thursday Etnel mentioned that she received a mandate from the board of directors to continue negotiations with UTS, because UTS was selected as the primary company to merge with,” the press release said.

“The SMCU questioned Etnel as to how she could send out an internal release informing the staff that the articles in the local newspapers are rumors while saying that she received a mandate. The SMCU then informed Etnel that she was misleading the staff of Telem Group with her statements.

“SMCU informed Etnel that the last time there was any discussion about a possible merger was since the year 2011. Since then she never informed the union or the staff about merging with any company, and that it seems that there are ‘secrets’ in this whole merger,” the press release continued.

After the meeting SMCU wrote a letter to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Telecommunication requesting a meeting with both of them in order to discuss the matter at hand, because Etnel is saying that the newspaper articles are rumors.

The SMCU said it is not in agreement with the merger of TELEM and UTS for the following reasons.

  1. UTS recently restructured, which resulted in over 100 employees being sent home.
  2. UTS wants to do another restructuring after the last one.
  3. UTS appears to be having financial difficulties and not generating enough revenues in Suriname, St. Kitts, and Nevis.
  4. Government of Curacao recently requested SOAB to do conduct an audit in UTS.

The SMCU then asks, based on the above, “How can it be that the Government of St. Maarten would select UTS as the best company for Telem Group to merge with?”

“The SMCU is aware of a letter of intent signed between GEBE and TELEM where the two companies have agreed to work with each other and to share projects and costs. The SMCU finds that if there is any merger going to take place it should be GEBE and TELEM because if these companies merge there will be synergy and job security,” the SMCU continued.

The SMCU said it was called by Member of Parliament, Theo Heyliger, “who is the only MP that showed concern about the articles in the newspapers about the merging of UTS and Telem. Based on these articles, he requested to meet with the union to discuss what he saw in the local media.”

The SMCU met with the MP Heyliger on Monday. The union informed him about their concerns regarding the merger between TELEM and UTS.

During a lengthy discussion, the SMCU informed the MP Heyliger that a merger with GEBE would be more welcomed by the union and its members.

“Heyliger clearly stated that he is also in total disagreement with any UTS-Telem merger. He strongly believes that the three companies which are Telem, Gebe, and PSS should merge. This type of merger will guarantee job security for our people and will make the companies stronger and able to take on any competitor,” the SMCU said.

“The MP indicated that he understands why the union does not believe that UTS -Telem merger is in the best interest of its members and does not want to see more of its members without a job. We went through a painful restructuring in the year 2012, and do not see it necessary to repeat such an event again.

“He said that a merger between UTS and TELEM would call for another restructuring and this will put more St. Maarten people on the streets without a job, and the economy of our country cannot handle an increase in unemployment.

“Heyliger further stated that he supports and agrees that the best strategic partner to merge with is GEBE. Also, we need to help our sister company PSS. This would mean that all the companies would fall under one umbrella. Doing this will give the government and the island of St. Maarten one strong group of companies with long term viability,” the SMCU concluded.

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