Bahamas Telecommunications Company’s (BTC) contracted technicians met with the media yesterday to express their disappointment that they continue to work despite having expired contracts, and have not been able to meet with the company’s new Chief Executive Officer Sameer Bhatti to discuss new contracts, spokesperson for the technicians Martin Clarke said yesterday.
Clarke said given the increases in gas and the cost of living, these technicians, who were let go in 2015 and rehired as private contractors, have been “struggling to survive” since 2019.
He said the pay scale offered by BTC per job can sometimes amount to less than minimum wage per week.
According to Clarke, the group of workers requested a meeting with Bhatti weeks ago. He claimed the meeting was cancelled and another meeting has yet to be rescheduled. However, BTC released a statement yesterday explaining its position on the workers and stating that Bhatti has met with the technicians.
“BTC is a law-abiding corporate entity. The company has entered into agreements with numerous contractors and vendors to provide services,” the statement said.
“These individuals are independent contractors of BTC and not full-time employees, and as such, are not covered under the bargaining agreement.
“As the first telecoms company to provide fiber to the home, BTC is heavily focused and invested in completely upgrading its network to fiber, which will eventually see the complete turndown of the copper network.
“A number of contracted technicians have embraced the new fiber technology and upskilled themselves, and have either formed companies or have offered their services as independent contractors.
“BTC invites and continues to encourage all technicians to also upskill with fiber certifications. BTC’s CEO has met with the technicians and has reached out to arrange a subsequent meeting.”
Clarke said the CEO met with a small number of third-party contractors. He explained that the technicians had a favorable one-year contract under the former CEO and would like to return to that contract, but with a longer contract period. He said BTC currently has their contracts at six months.
“Banks are not willing to assist technicians because of six-month contractual agreements. We’re asking them to change that and give us at least a two- or thee-year contract. We have not had a contract for the last six months. We’re still working in good faith,” he said.
Clarke added that although the technicians are contractors, they are still treated as if they are BTC staff. He said they are made to come to the office and still have to report to managers.
“They want contractors but still want to treat us as if we’re a part of BTC,” said Clarke.
He added that if they do now receive a favorable response from BTC, they will have to “move to plan B”, though he did not say what that next phase looks like.