Telem Board believes restructuring, partnering can run simultaneously

POSTED: 03/25/11 12:16 PM

PM to investigate status of affairs

St. Maarten – Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Directors of the Telem Group of Companies Rafael Boasman agrees with the St. Maarten Communications Union (SMCU) that the company’s restructuring should be finalized soon. However he sees no reason why two other processes the company has running – the search for a strategic partner and the recruiting of a new Chief Executive Officer – cannot proceed at the same time.

At a press conference Tuesday the union said that its members had mandated them on March 18 to ensure that the restructuring is completed before the process of finding a strategic partner. This position was communicated to the Shareholder Representative, – Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams – Boasman and the company’s Chief Financial Officer Helma Etnel – the acting Chief Executive Officer -, who chairs the management team that is running the company at the moment in a letter dated March 21.

“There is no disagreement with the union because as a board we would also love to see the restructuring finalized. The C.L.A. (Collective Labor Agreement) has been finalized and the social plan and yes now it’s taking a bit longer, but really there is no argument here. We also believe there is no need to stop one thing to do the other, especially because one process – the restructuring – may finish before the partnering anyway,” Boasman said.

He added, “The entire process for the restructuring has been laid down in a document of 2005 already and all that has to be done is to implement that. We had said that we wanted to ensure that a Chief Executive Officer was in place but we have now moved away from that and the current management team has been fully authorized to make the decisions and there should not be a delay anymore.”

The prime minister took a similar position to Boasman, stressing early on Wednesday that she was curious why the personnel of Telem felt the need to issue their resolution.

“A couple of weeks ago the union requested a meeting with me regarding Telem and I felt it necessary, even prudent in fact, to invite the board and management to that meeting with the union. After some questions were asked, primarily that were answered by management itself to the union, I got the impression that there was open communication between union/personnel and management regarding the process of restructuring and clearly the union at the time stood behind the plans of management as to how they are proceeding, which include the restructuring and that management has also indicated where they were in seeking a partner,” Wescot-Williams said.

In order to get an understanding of the situation the prime minister will be contacting especially the company’s management so they can inform her of the status of affairs and why they think the  union “saw the need to, at this juncture, go to their membership and come with a resolution.”

The Supervisory Board Chairman was not able to speak to the status of the restructuring, but anticipates that he will be able to sometime next week after a meeting with the management team that includes Etnel, Chief Commercial Officer Brian Mingo and Chief Technical Officer Eldert Louisa. He also said that while the board will not “sit on the seat of the management” and be the negotiating party with the union he’ll the guiding authority the board has to ensure the employees get the best deal.

“As a former union leader I will not allow for the workers to be jeopardized and we will insist as a board that the process should be fair. However the board will not sit on the seat of the management, and we continue to encourage dialogue between the parties in a positive atmosphere,” Boasman said.

Wescot-Williams was also not able to give an update as to all that had been done and stressed that her last meeting with the union and the management had delivered a status of affairs.

“I don’t have the plan and the activities that have been carried out in front of me right now, but fact is that the management of Telem is working according to a plan, have a clear indication of what components have and what components have not been completed. As I indicated earlier, in management sharing this information with me in the presence of the board of the union, clearly there was communication as to how that plan is proceeding. Again I want to repeat what led the union members to issue a resolution regarding the restructuring is something I hope the management will have more insight into and I will be apprised of such.”

Partnering

Boasman also offered Tuesday to explain the process of finding a strategic partner to the union as they claimed they know very little beyond the three companies that the negotiating team is currently having discussions with. He’s not going to give them details though, because the negotiations are still at a sensitive stage and the board does not believe it is wise to have the details communicated outside of the negotiating team that is engaged in the discussion on a day to day basis.

At the moment the negotiating team is still talking with the shortlisted companies – Digicel, Lime (formerly Cable and Wireless) and United Telecommunications Service (UTS). The team has made site visits to two of three and have received all three here for presentations on how the partnering will work.

“We are still gathering as much information as possible and asking as many questions as we can so we can make a recommendation on which one is the best. I am willing to explain the process to the union, but I will not give them the details. This is something where we are going to have to trust that the best will be sought,” Boasman said.

Search for CEO

Boasman also stressed on Wednesday that the board continues to be happy with the management team that’s running the company, even as they search for the new Chief Executive Officer. The post has been vacant since Pieter Drenth left on October 1, 2009 at the end of his contract.

“We have made at least two recommendations on this before and both of them were rejected. We have started this process anew and we have decided that we have to look at it very carefully. However the company continues to run well on a day to day basis under the leadership of the three member management team,” Boasman said.

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