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Published On: Wed, Sep 23rd, 2020

Union threatens TelEm with legal action over savings plan

PHILIPSBURG – The St. Maarten Communication Union (SMCU) threatens to take legal action if telecom provider TelEm sticks to its decision to discontinue its contributions to the group savings plan per February 2021. “You are taking decisions that are detrimental to TelEm employees without consulting with the SMCU,” union president Ludson Evers wrote in a letter dated August 26 to TelEm CEO Kendall Dupersoy.

But Dupersoy intends to stick to his guns: “I do not need your permission to terminate the savings plan,” he wrote in a letter dated September 18 to Evers.

The union obviously disagrees. Evers notes that the interest on savings for employees who wish to continue with the plan after TelEm steps out would go down from 3 to 1.8 percent. He maintains that agreements made on May 25, 2010, and February 16, 2016, prevent TelEm from unilaterally terminating its contributions to the plan.

“TelEm is bound to the savings plan until all participants that were employed prior to May 25, 2010, are no longer employed by TelEm,” Evers wrote, but the basis for this claim remains unclear.

The union leader also complained that he had to hear from a Mr. Johnson at the Post Spaarbank (PSB) that TelEm would no longer contribute to the plan. But Duperspoy pointed out that the need to discontinue the savings plan was discussed with the union and that this was confirmed in a letter dated June 1.

The savings plan was set up for a term of five years in 2016. It expires at the end of January 2021. “Parties agreed that the company’s financial situation would be the deciding factor at the time of a possible renewal,” Dupersoy wrote on September 10, adding that the contract with PSB allows for termination “without further prolongation.”

“We continue to hope that we can work together on this and achieve a result that works for all stakeholders; otherwise, the company will have to proceed with reorganization with collective layoffs as a result.”

On September 16, Evers sent another letter to Dupersoy. This time he noted that the agreement on cost-cutting measures of June 4 does not say anything about terminating the group savings plan. As far as cost-cutting goes, “the final agreement is legally binding,” Evers wrote.

Dupersoy responded one more time, in a letter dated September 18, where he pointed out the challenges TelEm is currently facing. “As an employee, you should know that the company is in dire financial straits, and yet as a union, you refuse to take any significant cut to safeguard the job security of your members.”

Dupersoy did not stop there: “You act as if we are making these decisions to harm employees when in actuality, we are making them to safeguard their jobs and the continuity of the company. Your stubborn behavior of refusing to negotiate in good faith is doing more harm to your members than any decision management could make or has made.”

TelEm and the unions signed a pension protocol on May 25, 2010. That protocol contained a few articles that refer only to the establishment of a group savings plan. It took until February 17, 2016, before parties would sign an agreement about the conditions for this plan that offered employees a platform for saving money, with contributions from TelEm.

The conditions say, however, nothing about the union’s decision making power in talks about a possible renewal of the plan towards the end of its five-year term. Article 3 only stipulates: “Six months prior to the five year mark parties will sit together to determine how the company will proceed (based on the company’s financial situation at the time) with the savings plan.”

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Relevant links:
Exclusive interview with TelEm CEO Kendall Dupersoy
TelEm-director sends confusing proposal to Prime Minister Jacobs
Supervisory Board of Directors Telem Group request Shareholders Meeting with the Council of Ministers
TelEm and union reach agreement on cost-cutting measures
Dupersoy: “Forensic audit would bring TelEm to a screeching halt”
Opinion piece: The bottom line
Cost-cutting measures become bone of contention
Letter State Secretary Knops to Dutch Second Chamber dated May 19, 2020
GEBE Internal Notice - financial aid conditions
Letter June 2, 2020, to Government-owned companies re cost-cutting measures
TelEm Response letter to SMCU Cost-Cutting Measures
Union wants forensic audit at TelEm reinstated
SMCU union rejects TelEm’s pay cut proposal
Reply letter SMCU union to TelEm
Financially Troubled TelEm
Telem sends letter to union; all salaries to be cut by 12,5%
TelEm Letter to Union re decrease labor conditions
Stimulus plan asks Netherlands for 254 million

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