CWU leader Clyde Elder address members of the media during the press conference.

The Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) has started gearing up for battle with TSTT, after hearing rumours that the company intends to retrench 600 employees.

CWU Secretary-General Clyde Elder told CNC3’s The Morning Brew host Soyini Grey that those rumours were started by National Enterprises Limited (NEL) chairman Ingrid Lashley.

Elder alleged that Lashley made the comment sometime in June and although the union has written the company and been told the claims were not true, CWU is getting ready to fight.

“For Ms Lashley to put something in the public, saying TSTT has embarked on another restructuring exercise, it means that she has information, she is well aware about what she’s talking about and (Sean) Roach (TSTT chairman) and the company is trying to maybe make fools of us and say no, we don’t know what you’re talking about,” Elder said.

But he said this denial only serves to bring up bitter memories of the company’s retrenchment of 500 employees in 2018.

“They did the same thing in 2018, they said, ‘No, no, no, nothing is going to happen” and less than a month after that, 500 of us, myself included, was retrenched,” he said.

Elder said based on that experience, CWU does not expect TSTT to obey good industrial relations practices.

He said CWU has “burned to learn.”

“Now, we are strategising, we are meeting with our attorneys, we are meeting with other representatives which I don’t want to say right now, but we are doing things to ensure that this time around, we either stop it outright or we mitigate the impacts of what is happening this time around. The company has said it is not coming, that is their position, that is not happening but we do not believe them.”

He said there are matters filed in the Industrial Court by the union relating to the 2018 retrenchment, including a request to have that retrenchment exercise declared null and void. However, due to the pandemic and the company’s lack of a response to the action, Elder said both matters have been put off until March 2022.

He accused TSTT’s management of deliberately attacking the CWU.

“They found it necessary to retrench me, the Secretary-General (in 2018) and what we are hearing is that our current president, who is now on secondment with the union, although she will not fit the criteria to be retrenched, only to make an example of unions and the Communication Workers’ Union and to drive that point home, that they intend to retrench her,” he said.

Elder said the CWU would “fight with their lives” to protect its members and itself.

Guardian Media reached out to TSTT manager of Media and Stakeholder Relations Janelle David for comment on Elder’s claims.

David said the union’s concerns stemmed from statements made by NEL and not TSTT, adding TSTT cannot comment on statements made by NEL. She said the company has been taking steps to “address the cost and revenue challenges” brought on by changes in technology and the pandemic.

“TSTT is cognizant of the tenets of good industrial relations practice and will not violate same in any circumstances,” David wrote in a response.