Union says it’s kept in dark about TelEm sale to Digicel

~ TelEm says no decision made yet ~

PHILIPSBURG–The St. Maarten Communications Union (SMCU) says TelEm Group workers as well as the union are being kept in the dark about a sixty-per-cent sale of TelCell to telecoms giant Digicel. However, in an invited comment, the management of the TelEm Group said the partnership talks are ongoing and no decision has yet been made.

Management said the talks are sensitive in nature with parties tied by confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements. “The negotiations are continuing and no decision has yet been made regarding partnering percentage or sale. Upon finalization of negotiations employees will be fully informed, as previously communicated to TelEm Group personnel,” management said.

SMCU President Ludson Evers said he had been informed that 60 per cent of TelCell will be sold to Digicel and “while the union and the employees of TelEm are not aware of this matter, we were not informed by the CFO [Chief Financial Officer, Ed.] of TelEm.”

Evers said the union will request a meeting with the new Council of Ministers to get clarity on this matter.

The union also expressed concerns about information that it received, that a former employee and former SMCU leader had won the bid for TelEm’s “fibre to the home” project. The union said one of most important criteria for the bid was that participating contractors should have experience in “blowing of fibre.” The union says the contractor who won the bid “never worked with fibre before, but yet won the bid for a major project pertaining to fibre.”

SMCU also said that the Suriname workers whom it had expressed concern about in the past will be back to work on this project. “To make matters worse we understood that the same Surinamers will be back again to continue the fibre work, but now as employees of the company of this ex-employee.”

SMCU said TelEm officials had invited the SMCU president to a meeting and informed him that they wanted to give the fibre project to a “local company,” but that this company “must work with the Surinamers and wanted the union’s cooperation.”

The SMCU president enquired why the service of the controversial group from Suriname has to be used and noted that this subject “was left at that. We don’t see why the emphasis that this same group has to be the one to carry out our fibre project, while we have competent persons on the island that can do this job.”

SMCU said TelEm recently signed for an eight-million-euro loan and suddenly the controversial workers from Suriname “are back in the picture again.”

The union said the working papers for the workers in question are now in order and they can now officially work in St. Maarten. The union also contends that director of the TelEm board has to change, and the company is in need of a Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

As it relates to the accusations about the bidding process, TelEm management said while it was reluctant to discuss company matters in public the nature of comments made by SMCU should not go unanswered. The company said all procedures were followed for tendering and selection for the winning bid for the fibre-to-home project.

“The company that won the bid met all the requirements including the requirement for experience with blowing fibre and fibre certification. Additionally, compliance with all labour laws is another important criterion that has to be met, contrary to what is alleged,” TelEm said in its response.

“Management is satisfied that its bidding process, (which began with 10 interested parties from which five parties subsequently submitted bids of which three parties met the requirements), has been handled in a transparent and fair manner. It is also important to note that of the three local companies meeting the publicly tendered requirements, all will be contracted to carry out a specific aspect of the fibre project despite the one winning bid. Questions related to the staffing of the winning bid contractor should be directed to the contracting company and not to the TelEm Group.”

Source: The Daily Herald Union says it’s kept in dark about TelEm sale to Digicel