Labour Minister: Ex-Digicel workers can’t challenge retrenchment

The content originally appeared on: News Americas Now

Black Immigrant Daily News

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Stephen Mc Clashie –

MINISTER OF LABOUR Stephen Mc Clashie said the 126 retrenched Digicel workers cannot challenge their termination as the process was done in accordance with labour laws.

“They can’t challenge it once it was done according to the law,” Mc Clashie told Newsday in a phone conversation.

“There is nothing that they could do because there is no work to go back to.”

Digicel in a press release said the workers will be retrenched as the company is transitioning its TT Consumer Contact Centre to a Centre of Excellence in Jamaica. The workers were retrenched as of Monday.

Asked whether the former Digicel workers could seek redress with the Labour Ministry, Mc Clashie said while there was a facility in place at the ministry to deal with conflict resolution and dismissals in the form of the Consiliation, Advisory and Advocacy Division (CAAD), the Digicel retrenchments were different from what the division would normally handle.

CAAD provides a suite of services including conducting conciliation proceedings between employers and unions in rights disputes including dismissals.

Mc Clashie said, “A dismissal is where an employee is fired from his job and he feels that it is not just therefore he wants someone to enter into the fray and intervene on his behalf.

“In this particular instance (involving Digicel), with the retrenchment, a company can lay off workers based on economic issues. So you might have had, like in the case of Digicel, a contract that got cancelled and therefore you no longer have need to engage the people you have.

“The Industrial Relations Act, in those situations, gives the employer the right to retrench workers but you have to do it in a particular way.”

He said the employer would have to inform the ministry of the retrenchment, the number of people, their names, the length of their service and termination benefits. He said employers can inform employees of the retrenchment and give them 45 days’ notice or in lieu of that, payment for the 45 days.

He added that employees may be entitled to other benefits such as reimbursement of money put into vacation savings plans or pension payments.

“It is not the same as a dismissal,” he said. “With a dismissal you get nothing – you get fired, you go home, you cry about it and get mad with everybody.”

Responding to questions in Parliament, Minister of Trade, Senator Paula Gopee-Scoon said the ministry and the National Investment Agency of TT (InvesTT) were working on introducing Digicel’s retrenched workers to businesses in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry.

“I am aware that Digicel has made arrangements to have these particular people introduced to the other BPO businesses that are already existing in TT and are in expansion mode, so that these young people would have the opportunity.”

InvesTT president Sekou Alleyne said locally existing and incoming BPO companies would be interested in the newly available talent pool.

“InvesTT is engaged in attracting foreign direct trade and investment into TT, and one of the sectors that we have been focused on is the BPO sector.

“One of the main factors we highlight in raising awareness for TT as a destination for these types of businesses, is our labour pool and the access to talent that they can get in TT.”

He said businesses like iQuor, Bill Gosling and a company named Ascensos out of Scotland might be some of the companies interested in accessing this labour pool.

But Alleyne noted that InvesTT and the ministry would not be working to have the workers absorbed into these companies, the workers would simply be given the ability to apply for work.

“These firms will have their own assessment and recruitment processes that they would put everyone through. There is no intention here to absorb but to access. Those companies are free to assess and take those people through whatever recruitment process they have.”