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posted 14 Mar 2015, 09:10 by Gerry Kangalee

On March 13th 2015, the Secretary General of the Communication Workers Union, Joseph Remy, issued two public statements, which we reproduce.

The Communication Workers’ Union, (CWU), has taken note of the announcement by the Telecommunication Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, (TATT), relative to their decision pertaining to the acquisition of Columbus Communications by Cable and Wireless Communications.

While on the surface and through the messages portrayed in the headlines it would appear that TATT has rejected the acquisition, a careful perusal of the position advanced by the TATT has left some serious concerns and unanswered questions in the minds of the Communication Workers’ Union.

We wish to firstly applaud TATT for heeding the frequent public calls of the CWU to deal with the blatant and flagrant Conflict of Interest issue with respect to Cable and Wireless Shareholding in TSTT. The Union repeatedly stated that it was wrong for Cable and Wireless to continue to hold on to their stake in TSTT while at the same time seek to have approval granted for their acquisition of Columbus Communications, which effectively would give them control over FLOW, a direct competitor of TSTT.

This however was not a difficult decision to make since the ordinary citizen and any elementary school child would have been able to identify the irrefutable Conflict of Interest that arises with Cable and Wireless' stake in TSTT and their interest in FLOW.

What has the CWU concerned is the softening of TATT's position and their emulation of the Jamaican Government’s approach by stipulating conditionalities for the approval of the acquisition. TATT has left the back door wide open for Cable and Wireless Communications to acquire Columbus Communications, (owners of FLOW), by stating that "it shall not unreasonably withhold its approval of the transaction if CWC were to suspend its shareholder rights with regard to its 49% stake in TSTT among other conditions".

TATT also went on to state that one of the other conditions of their approval is that "the applicants submit an agreement for the complete divestment of CWC’s shareholding of 49% in TSTT, in consultation with the majority shareholder National Enterprise Ltd. (NEL) in accordance with the shareholders’ agreement and to be approved in writing by the Authority, such approval to not be unreasonably withheld."

Quite alarmingly, TATT has not dealt with the fact that Cable and Wireless Communications would have operated at the Board Level of TSTT since 1991. They had the right to appoint four (4) members to the Board of Directors and had exhaustive Veto rights over major Capital Expenditure at TSTT.

In recent instances, they would have withheld approval of the Company's Budget and forced TSTT to operate on a Month to Month Budgetary allocation. They would have been part of the recent Strategic Planning Exercise conducted by the Company whereby they rolled out a Five (5) Year Strategic Plan for Business expansion and development.

They have been privy to all of the Company's business strategies and competitive initiatives. Against that background, how can they now be allowed a chance to enter the same market through another Business Entity that is competing with TSTT in the same Product Offerings? They would certainly have a major competitive advantage by their intimate knowledge of all the Company's Business Operations and Financial position.

It is against this background that the Communication Workers' Union is stating that we find the TATT position to be very weak. They are dancing to the music of Cable and Wireless Communications and have endorsed Cable and Wireless Communications' blatant acts of corporate prostitution. They have given sanction to the deliberate efforts by Cable and Wireless Communications over the years to stymie the advancement and positive development of TSTT.

They have effectively signaled their intent to see Cable and Wireless Communications continue on their path of destruction of TSTT, all because TSTT has a Recognized Majority Union, (the CWU), that they cannot manipulate and control. That is the main reason that Cable and Wireless Communications wants to acquire Columbus Communications, (owners of FLOW), so that they can enter the market with the same Product Offerings as TSTT but with a non-unionised work force that they can manipulate and exploit all in their quest for obscene profits.

As we stated before, this would have severe and serious fallout for employment levels in the Telecommunications Sector and eventually lead to social and economic despair in Trinidad and Tobago.

The CWU has begun a campaign against this acquisition and this shallow position adopted by the TATT would not deter us from our forward march to see the backs of Cable and Wireless Communications from the Telecommunications Landscape of Trinidad and Tobago. We would continue to campaign for local ownership at TSTT and would struggle to ensure that our local Spectrum would not be exploited by a multitude of Foreign Multi National Corporations who do not have the Nation’s interest at heart.

We have also noted the contradiction in TATT’s position whereby they have stated that "an in-depth economic and legal analysis of the implications of the transaction on the local telecom market found that substantial lessening of competition or adverse effects may reasonably be expected to result from the proposed acquisition of Columbus by CWC."

How does TATT reconcile that position with their intent to give approval to the acquisition once Cable and Wireless gets rid of their 49% shareholding in TSTT?

The CWU is once again calling on the Trinidad and Tobago Government to take the lead in this situation and reject any approval for the transfer of control of Columbus local operations to Cable and Wireless Communications.

We are also demanding that the entire application process for the third (3rd) Mobile Provider be annulled since Cable and Wireless Communications would have applied to be a provider with the clear knowledge of their 49% shareholding in TSTT and with the clear knowledge that they were making a bid for the acquisition of Columbus Communications which also had an application for the 3rd License before TATT through their local operator, FLOW.

Oh what a tangled web they have spun around the TATT. It is now left up to the CWU to take the fight to Cable and Wireless, Columbus Communications, TATT and the obstinate and visionless Peoples Partnership Government of Trinidad and Tobago.

Consistent with the spirit and intent of the Preamble of the Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, which speaks to "respect for the principles of social justice and therefore believe that the operation of the economic system should result in the material resources of the community being so distributed as to subserve the common good, that there should not be exploited or forced by economic necessity to operate in inhumane conditions but that there should be opportunity for advancement on the basis of recognition of merit, ability and integrity."

We Dare to Struggle for the Telecommunications Sector of Trinidad and Tobago to be developed in the interest of all citizens of Trinidad and Tobago; We Dare to Struggle to ensure that CWC, CWWI and DIGICEL do not rape and plunder our National Patrimony; We Dare to Struggle for a better Trinidad and Tobago.

                      MINISTER OR GAME SHOW HOST?

The Communication Workers’ Union would like to warn the Minister of Public Utilities about his most recent statement relative to the ownership of the Telecommunication Services of Trinidad and Tobago. In an interview on CNC3, the Line Minister stated that if the ‘Price is Right’, then TSTT can be placed into Private Hands.

The Communication Workers' Union would like to advise Minister Nizam Baksh that TSTT is not owned by the People’s Partnership. TSTT is an invaluable State Asset that belongs to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. As such, any decision relative to the future direction of the Company cannot and must not be determined by any "Game Show Host."

It was quite disrespectful for this Minister, who by the way has not made one statement on the raging public debate about the Cable and Wireless acquisition of Columbus Communications, to treat TSTT like some commodity that you guess a price for, akin to what takes place on the Game Show Channel.

The CWU would also like to advise the People’s Partnership Government that we will not sit or stand idly by and allow them to use this current situation with Cable and Wireless to give away the lucrative shareholding in TSTT to one of their Party Financiers. We are well aware of all the moves being made behind the scenes relative to the 49% Shareholding that Cable and Wireless must relinquish.

We are well aware that there are strong moves by Local Big Business Interests who have very strong and sharp links to the Government to direct one major move towards getting control of TSIT. We are also well aware that the Peoples Partnership Government wants to ensure that they pay back their financiers before they demit office

The CWU promises to inform the national community about this disingenuous plan by the Government

and is prepared to mount a nationwide campaign to ensure that TSTT remains the flagship Local Telecommunications Provider in a Market that is now totally dominated by foreign multi-nationals.

Our National Patrimony must not be sold out, worse again at pepper corn rates. We are prepared to stand up and defend our interests to ensure that we leave some sort of legacy and patrimony for the future generation. For this, we "Dare to Struggle"!

A word to wise is sufficient.