SMCU representatives outside the Government Building after meeting with the mediator and TelEm management on Thursday morning. From left: Sherman Serastis, Mario Gumbs (board member) and Ludson Evers (President).
POND ISLAND--TelEm Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Kendall Dupersoy has retracted his letter to St. Maarten Communications Union (SMCU) dated February 12 on cost-cutting measures and has resubmitted his correspondence to the union as a proposal for discussion.
The original letter resulted in workers downing tools on Wednesday and showing up at the Government Building to protest the content of the correspondence. Dupersoy’s retraction came after the union and TelEm management met with the mediators at the Government Building on Thursday.
“Pursuant to this morning’s [Thursday morning – Ed.] meeting with the mediator where I proposed to retract my prior correspondence (dated 12 February 2021) regarding cost-cutting measures and replace it with a proposal for your consideration, you are hereby provided the following,” Dupersoy said in a new letter to the union on Thursday.
He said the government-imposed measure to reduce the labour conditions of employees resulting in a reduction of 12.5 per cent, has been laid down in draft legislation which is expected to enter into force in the very short term. In the draft legislation a measure is also included that as of the calendar year 2021 any increases will no longer be allowed.
“Since the draft legislation is not clear on how the reductions can or should be applied, we have requested both the government and the CFT [Committee for Financial Supervision – Ed.] in writing to provide clarity. We have not received a response from CFT and the response from the government does not give us the required comfort.
“Considering the existing uncertainties, we suggested to you on numerous occasions to wait with introducing the cost-cutting measures so that any and all uncertainties can first be clarified. You have indicated that your members do not want to wait and insist that we continue with making all bonus-related payments despite not knowing the impact of this decision to employees.”
In light of this, Dupersoy said, the company has given careful consideration to the ramifications of this matter for employees and would like to propose for discussion the following cost-cutting measures: Reduction of five vacation days as of the year 2021; elimination of the savings plan as of 1 January 2021; the profit share bonus over the year 2019 and payable in the year 2020 will not be paid; the year-end bonus for the year 2020 will not be paid; the on-call allowance will be reduced to zero as of 1 January 2021; and the vacation allowance for 2021 will be reduced by 60 per cent.
TelEm explicitly reserves the right to amend these measures if it receives confirmation that the measures selected are not applied correctly and/or if the actual figures (payroll cost) for the period July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021, turn out to be higher, which could result in an obligation for the employees to pay back if what they received is less than a 12.5 per cent reduction in total.
Should the latter be the case, the company will be lenient and will give the employees the possibility to pay back what they received in excess over an extended period of time (so not at once). The cost-cutting measures will be applied across the board and will also be applied to executive management, Dupersoy said in his new letter.