Haiti: Privatisation plan starts with mass firings

Issue 

At least 500 Teleco workers received termination letters on July 6 as part of the government's announced plan to privatise the company.

There were approximately 2800 workers remaining after the first wave of mass firings, as the government works to reduce the total number of employees to 800, according to several sources. These mass dismissals, which were expected in the wake of numerous statements by President Rene Preval and Teleco director general Michel Presume, came 10 days after the end of a three-week strike organised by the union of telephone workers, initially to demand a dialogue with Presume, and subsequently calling for his departure.

The workers ended their strike after the president of the Communications Commission of the Haitian senate, Jean Hector Anacacis, asserted that dialogue between the union and the Teleco director general was necessary.

As the first series of letters were sent out on July 6, several police units as well as MINUSTAH officers were called to the perimeter of the Teleco facility to neutralise any possible protesters.

Teleco workers found this decision insulting "after so many years of service to the company". "We have never been against privatization; we are simply asking for what we deserve", said one of those dismissed. He noted that workers who have been terminated have been invited to go to a teller at the National Credit Bank to receive their legal services and a severance bonus equivalent to 12 months' wages. The workers were demanding compensation equivalent to seven years of wages.

The president of the union of the National Telecommunications Company, Jean Mabou, whose name appears on the list of sacked workers, termed the dismissals illegal and arbitrary. According to several employees, the selection of workers to be dismissed was based on a desire for revenge, and the choice of workers who are being kept in their positions was based on favouritism. "What is the common sense behind the dismissal of 14 out of the 17 trainers at the training centre, while bogus consultants who only go to the office to collect their salaries are kept on because of their friendship with the architects of this privatisation", said an indignant cadre who had been sacked.

[Agence Haitienne de Presse ()/Haitianalysis.com]