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BIR woes delay TSTT VSP payout

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Telecommunication Services of Trinidad and Tobago’s (TSTT) Voluntary Separation and Voluntary Early Employment Retirement Plans (VSP/VEERP) have hit another snag—several former employees have received no payout since leaving their jobs in June. 

The Sunday Guardian learned that as many as 27 managers accepted VSP/VEERP but were yet to be paid. If unresolved, this could have a domino effect on the 290 management staff that are expected to participate in the  programme on a monthly basis from this month to March 2015. Two of the 27 former managers received a 30 per cent payout in July and nothing since, while the other 25 have remained unpaid.

TSTT’s executive vice president of Human Resources, Harigobin Jhinkoo, blamed work stoppages at the Board of Inland Revenue (BIR) for delays in making the promised payouts. “The truth is a number of persons accepted the VSP and there has been a delay in the final payments but that is because of the challenges at the BIR and the industrial action on their side,” he said.

“As you must be aware, BIR stopped working for some time and then they were coming in for half-days and a few hours, so that disruption at BIR caused the delay that we are now experiencing.” Jhinkoo said the 30 per cent payout was at TSTT’s discretion and was made when the company recognised the delay was causing financial hardship for some former staff. “We sought to provide some relief,” he said.

Jhinkoo said the worst of the wait was over. “We have been assured by the BIR that they are back to some semblance of normal operations and they have already created the individual cases. The feedback from the BIR is that they are rapidly treating with the backlog,” he said. “There should be some relief by the end of the next month.”

Some 318 junior and senior staff, most represented by the Communications Workers Union (CWU), have also signed on for the VSP/VEERP programme. However, this matter is currently stalled at the negotiations table. It was sent to the Ministry of Labour for resolution and then to the Industrial Court when the ministry was unable to resolve the matter.

CWU secretary general John Julien said the matter was still pending for junior and senior staff represented by the union. He said the CWU was not the bargaining unit for the managers who were now seeking relief.


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