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Evans: BTC staff reduction by CWC would be a mistake

A union leader representing Bahamas Telecommunications Company(BTC)workers is expecting Cable and Wireless Communications to waste no time reducing jobs to the tune of$25 million annually, although they estimate another 10 to 15 percent increase in staffing levels is needed at the company.

While Cable and Wireless was unable to reveal yesterday at the signing of the BTC share purchase agreement and shareholders agreement exactly what their preliminary studies estimate as the optimal staff complement for BTC, Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union President(BCPOU) Bernard Evans said the company is likely to attempt to cut somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 jobs.

That would be a major mistake, he argues, given the 1,200 staff members’present”heavy”work load that counters any goals of increased efficiency and productivity.

“They’ll be seeking to increase revenue or what have you, so they will be looking to reduce staff by 300 or 400 people,”Evans toldGuardian Businessyesterday.”That’s over$25 million they can save over a year.

“We know Cable and Wireless has decided to improve their value back to shareholders by way of reducing staff. But right now BTC is understaffed… it needs at least 10 to 15 percent more people working there.”

The union leader said his guesstimates are based on earlier requests by the BTC board–before a hiring freeze three years earlier–for an additional 100 workers to be added to the staffing levels. It’s a level he argues the company never got to, althoughGuardian Businessreports indicate that BTC has had an increase in operating expenses in the last three years, the result of increases in plant expenses, utilities and support services, personnel and training, and the implementation of new services and technology migration.

Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham yesterday referred to an earlier BTC management team that pointed to the need to reduce staffing levels by 25 percent in order to contain costs. That would translate into the reduction of about 300 people at the company.

“Prior to any talk of CWC entering BTC, the existing management of BTC did a study that determined the need for restructuring with the onset of competition,”Ingraham said.”Their study suggested the need for a staff reduction of as much as 25 percent to reduce costs in the face of competitive pressure. This reality is partly driven by new technology, which reduces the need for labor in certain areas of BTC’s operations.

“This new technology also makes it easier for competitors to establish and to attract business away from BTC, with less staff cost.”

Chief Executive Officer of CWC David Shaw said the company was just awaiting the perfect time to consult colleagues at the company on the matter of staffing levels and asserted it would be”premature”to give any indications ahead of that meeting.

Still, CWC confirmed yesterday during the signing of the share purchase agreement and shareholders agreement with government that it was indeed going ahead with plans to offer current BTC employees packages.

“A voluntary workforce restructuring plan will be planned to be implemented within the first twelve months following completion,”said a statement from the government.

Shaw asserted that investment in the company will continue after the deal is finalized–now set for an April 4 date for regulatory approval. High among those plans, he said, was the continued upgrade and investment in BTC’s network, and”more investment in brand and marketing and retail distribution foot print.”

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