October 02, 2012 7:47 AM
PHILIPSBURG--St. Maarten Communications Union (SMCU), representing the TelEm workers, plans to take the TelEm Group of Companies to court for what it claims are violations of the agreement management has with union regarding placing of employees during the company's restructuring process.
SMCU President Ludson Evers said a letter would be sent to management informing it that the union has no other choice, considering what it considers clear violations.
Ludson explained that the restructuring process had been proceeding "smoothly" until management's handling of the 13 employees who had been designated as redundant.
Nine of these 13 employees took voluntary leave, leaving four cases unresolved. After discovering some agreement violations by management, the union said it had opted for the appeals committee (for redundant employees) to look at the cases of the redundant employees to ensure that proper procedures were followed.
The appeals committee rendered its advice at the end of August 2012, indicating that three of the four remaining employees could have been placed in the company's new structure. Of the three that the appeals committee advised positively on, the company proceeded to place two, opting to cut ties with one, according to Evers.
The union then wrote a letter to management informing it that the last employee could have been placed, considering that there was a vacancy with a salary scale lower than what the lone employee could demand. Placing employees in lower salary scales is also outlined in the agreement between the union and management as a mechanism to ensure employment with employees who are already with the company, should the company go through restructuring.
Evers said the company did not agree with the union on this standpoint, claiming that its decision was based on the appeals committee's advice which was for specific job functions. He said management, without even trying to retrain the employee, had also informed the employee that she could not be retrained. He said the employee is 49 years old, with 23 years at the company and good evaluations across the board.
Evers said the union believes that management's decision is of a personal nature, ignoring what was agreed on. He said the Chief Financial Officer of TelEm Helma Etnel was already on record as saying that if the union wanted to go to court, "then so be it."
"Well, that is where we are going. The company does not belong to Ms. Etnel. She will not have to pay any penalties, but the people would," Evers said, adding that a former manager of the company was also taking the company to court, citing procedures not followed.