VSEPs offered to employees last Friday; figures not revealed
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — While he was unable to provide the number of employees Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) envisions disengaging through voluntary separation packages, BTC CEO Garfield Sinclair said yesterday that the latest exercise set up the company, which has been guarding its marketing share, for “real rapid growth”.
Voluntary separation packages (VSEPs) were offered to BTC employees last Friday
“A lot of colleagues are on leave at this time of year, so colleagues are getting up to speed on what the requirements are; what their options are, and right now the number of people who have already applied is what it is. I am not going to sort of reveal that, other than to say that we consulted widely before we introduced the packages. So, we believe that what we have on the table are packages that colleagues are going to find compelling if they are minded to move on to some other phase of their lives. It is completely voluntary obviously, so it is up to colleagues to accept or reject.”
Sinclair said the company continues to consult its employees and getting staff to understand “sort of what life could be like outside of BTC; financial advise.”
He said every precaution and is being taken to ensure the approach and exercise is does appropriate and with the adequate amount of sensitivity.
He foreshadowed that once the VSEP process is completed BTC is going to be set for “real rapid growth”.
He said BTC will give employees adequate time to consider the offer, noting that it’s a big decision for employees, some of whom have worked at BTC all of their lives.
The company has undergone a number of VSEP exercises in years past.
Asked whether he believes the company will reach is separation target, Sinclair said while there is an assumed figure in mind for “planning purposes”, there is no “specific target”.
“We have some planning numbers in place, but the idea is it’s a voluntary exercise,” he said.
“Once people decide one way or another; put their hands up, one way or another, we’re going to be left with a business that we’re going to have to configure now to compete effectively in the 21stcentury.
“I think once the dust has settled and the smoke has cleared, we’re going to be ready to drive our business forward.”
When asked about union relations, Sinclair said he has been focused on forming a real partnership.
He noted that he has sought to change the narrative surrounding executive management and the union, adding that he wants to prove that by working with the unions, BTC can be the best operator in the region.
“That is not the narrative today and I have assured my unions — and frankly, they have agreed — that we can work together to change that narrative prove to my competitors who by the way are not unionized that working with unions can actually make you the best operators, and it is not a detractor.
“I have had a bit of a challenge in getting that message through. We had some differences of opinion.
“We are going through a transformation. It’s fraught with risk and anxiety as are most transformations, but after all the heat and light that has occurred around this issue over the last couple of weeks or so, I would say we are in a positive place.”
BTC has settled two industrial agreements that were outstanding, according to Sinclair, who said that is a positive sign, and he remains cautiously optimistic.
It was revealed in July that the VSEP offering was valued at $7 million to $11 million.
The union has pushed for a $19 million package.
In July, the union filed a trade dispute with the Department of Labour, claiming BTC’s management, namely Sinclair, abruptly halted negotiations concerning the VSEPs being offered to an estimated 100-plus employees.
The union has also expressed concerns about further outsourcing, but Sinclair has said the call center, which was being eyed to move to another jurisdiction, will remain in The Bahamas as the request of the prime minister.