TelEm Group Management, SMCU Conclude Lengthy Negotiations

TelEm Group Management, SMCU Conclude Lengthy Negotiations With Signing of Four Important Labour Agreements

TelEm Group management and the St. Maarten Telecommunication Union (SMCU) have concluded lengthy labour and transition agreement talks with the signing of four separate agreements in the company’s conference room Wednesday afternoon. 

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The four agreements are:

1. A Collective Labour Agreement (CLA) for the new Operating Company to ensure that transferred employees are entering into a company with a CLA in effect.

2. A Social Plan for the new Operating Company to ensure that transferred employees are entering into a company with a Social Plan in effect.


3. A Transition Agreement between TelEm, TelCell, Smitcoms and SMCU laying out the manner in which the units in the Operating Company will be executed.

4. A Social Plan for St. Maarten Telephone Company N.V. and St. Maarten International Telecommunication Services N.V.

Upon witnessing the signing and adding his own signature to the documents, Government Mediator, Mr. Kenneth Lopes said the process leading to the signing of the various agreements was lengthy and tedious, however the talks were handled very professionally by the negotiating team of the TelEm Group management and the negotiating team of the St. Maarten Communication Union (SMCU).

"It is because of the seriousness and the willingness of trying to reach a consensus on several important issues that we are able to sign this Collective Labour Agreement, Transition Agreement and Social Plan and hereby bring closure to this development," stated Mr. Lopes Wednesday.

The sentiments of Mr. Lopes were shared by Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Mrs. Helma Etnel, who signed the documents on behalf of management, described the signing an emotional and historic undertaking for all parties with much positive potential going forward.

TelEm Group Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Mrs. Helma Etnel described the final signing of documents as an emotional and historic moment for the company with much positive potential going forward.

"The CLA, Social Plan and Transition Agreement are in fact the basis under which we can peacefully, and in a decent manner agree on the process of restructuring," stated Mrs. Etnel at the end of the marathon session Wednesday to sign all four documents in one sitting.

"I would like to thank all the parties involved because I believe that from day one each party had good intentions. The union wanted to get the maximum out for their members while management always wants to get the maximum benefit for the company.

" I am happy in the end that both parties have been able to reach common ground where we can at least make sure the company interest and the employee interest is being served," said Mrs. Etnel

The CFO went on to thank the Mediator Mr. Lopes for his "wise and quiet guidance and experience" and also the Management negotiating team for the effort and time they put into completing their task.

"I also wish to thank the union for their support, cooperation and understanding, especially during the last few months," continued Mrs. Etnel.

"We have reached the stage in this company where all of us see this is a serious business and that we need to do something with the company to move forward.

"I am happy to see the productive way we have closed items in the past few weeks, so many thanks and let us try to continue to focus in the same manner together. While we try at times to defend certain interest groups, in the end all of us want the company to survive in the most efficient manner. Let’s use the occasion to encourage our staff to act in the same manner and together, in the end, we will be able to reach our end goal. I am really emotional about what we have done today because it’s a big, big and important milestone," said Mrs. Etnel.

President of the St. Maarten Communication Union (SMCU) Mr. Ludson Evers, signing on behalf of the SMCU said his negotiating team is happy the negotiations have come to an end with Wednesday’s official signing.

"These four documents will regulate the transfer of the employees to the Operating Company. The CLA will cover the employees that will be going over to the Operating Company and a Social Plan will be applied for employees who might become redundant," said Mr. Evers.

Mr. Evers described the process leading up to Wednesday’s signing as "a lengthy negotiation." The SMCU board is a young board and we have managed to reach the end of the negotiations.

"We had a very experienced and professional negotiation thanks to our advisor, Mr. Holaman, who guided us through this process so that we could reach the signing of these documents today. We are happy that now we have a clear indication of how this process will take place," stated the SMCU president.

Chairperson of the TelEm Group Management Team Mrs. Peggy-Ann Brandon said although the process was a long one it was however an essential process for parties on both sides of the table.

"We learned to respect each other and come to a mutual understanding of the underlying things that played a role and needed to be addressed in the CLA.

"There were times we didn’t see eye to eye, but it was always in a cordial and friendly manner. We laughed, we argued, but at the end of the day we always found a way together to come up with a formulation that would work for us both.

"During the many meetings we had it was evident on both sides that while we were looking for the best position for management there was also a great amount of understanding of the interest of employees which allowed us to see eye to eye and make things work," added the negotiating team chairperson.

Mrs. Brandon commended the SMCU for being tenacious in their approach, her team members for their unwavering support and the government mediator for keeping everyone together and forcing the issue to the end.

" Most of all I want to thank Mrs. Etnel. Because of her practical approach and pushing us at times, she made us more determined and adamant to complete this process as soon as possible.

"All in all with the SMCU and management the viability of the company in finally on the right tract and I see and good future ahead," said Mrs. Brandon.

Although the signing of the documents took place on Wednesday without much fanfare, TelEm Group Management and the SMCU have jointly decided to celebrate the signing of the labour agreements in the presence of employees and other stakeholders during a General Meeting of personnel scheduled for June 30th.

"This is an important milestone that calls for a joint celebration," says CFO, Mrs. Etnel.