The ongoing retrenchment process at AirtelTigo, following the merger of the two companies, hit a roadblock over alleged use of wrong formula to calculate packages, but all that is over now as the breach has been corrected.

Adom News earlier learnt that the first batch of senior staff who received notice of their retrenchment packages rejected it outrightly, accusing management of using a strange formula that shortchanges workers significantly.

Following the rejection, a group of workers, calling themselves the Concerned AirtelTigo Workers, put out a write up accusing management of several things, including side-stepping the provisions of a workers handbook and an agreed formula.

In the midst of the stalemate, management had a meeting with executives of the Network of Communications Reporters (NCR), a group of ICT journalists, where the matter and its implications were discussed candidly.

At that meeting, the CEO of AirtelTigo, Roshi Motman assured the journalists that she was going to take a closer look at the handbook and possibly work with it, following the initial agitations.

She promised her commitment to ensuring that deserving workers are given meaningful jobs in the merged company, while those who have to leave are given proper career counseling and equally deserving retrenchment packages.

A day after that meeting, a happy worker sent a message to the NCR executive saying “whatever you guys did worked because now they are offering more than what was in the handbook.”

A top management person confirmed to Adom News that “yes we are using the handbook plus a bit more. The packages are very generous.”

Background

The workers had initially alleged that management, in November last year, presented a formula to them at their maiden durbar, which showed that the package will be calculated as follows:

“Two months gross salary without benefits for every year of service, plus three months gross salary with benefits – where benefits include SSNIT contribution, medical, airtime and gross salary as basic and monthly allowances (car, housing/rent).”

According to the workers, the formula stated above was what management presented to National Communications Authority, National Labour Commission, and the Ministry of Communication prior to the approval of the merger.

Even though the package was not negotiated with workers, as required by the Labour Law, workers said they were satisfied with the formula so they did not question it.

But according to the workers, after the merger had been approved, management suddenly set aside the formula and resorted to a totally different one that shortchanges them, particularly Airtel workers.

Some say the new formula made some of them lose up to 40 per cent of what they would have gotten if the formula stated above was used.

The Law

Meanwhile, a labour expert and a unionist had earlier cited the Labour Law, Act 651, saying whatever packages are due the workers, should either have been stated in an existing binding contract, or where such a contract is lacking, be negotiated with the workers or their representatives as by law required.

Indeed Section 65 (2 and 4) provides that in the event of a merger the individual entities in the merger must pay their respective workers a redundancy package and that package must be negotiated if it is not already in a collective bargaining agreement or an existing document.

In effect, per the law, Airtel is expected to pay to its workers, while Tigo does same for its workers, since none of the workers going on retrenchment has a contract with the new entity called AirtelTigo.

Airtel Handbook

Airtel has a workers handbook that clearly states the formula for a retrenchment package, but Adom News learnt Tigo does not have one.

But some Tigo workers have said they would be happy to settle for the package in the Airtel handbook instead of negotiating a new one.

What worried the workers was the attempt by the management of AirtelTigo, with which they have no contract yet, to use an un-negotiated one-sided formula to calculate their retrenchment packages.

One Airtel worker said “the formula in the Airtel handbook was applied to others when they had to leave Airtel in the past, so we don’t understand why when it got to our turn the merged company is using a different formula – this is against the law.”

Adom News also learnt that two years ago, one Airtel staff was in the process of leaving but was convinced to stay after he had been given a letter stating his retrenchment package. But two years on, after the merger, he has been given another package far less than what he was offered two years ago.

“This does not make sense – how can they pay someone less than what he deserved two years ago,” a worker quipped.

Retrenchment in tots

The workers also accused management of deliberately doing the retrenchment in tots so that at any point in time not many aggrieved workers could congregate and go on a class action.

They also raised questions as to why some categories of workers have been asked to reapply for jobs while others have just been given jobs with the merged company without having to reapply.

Management response

Meanwhile, management of AirtelTigo have debunked the allegations that they are deliberately doing the retrenchment in small batches just to prevent any mass agitation.

They explained that they are rather being strategic in order to ensure all workers have a fair chance of getting jobs with the company on meritorious basis.

Mobility Centre

CEO Roshi Motman stated that the company has established a special Mobility Centre, where all workers are going through a process to either be employed on merit or let go with a deserving retrenchment package.

The Mobility Centre is manned by experts from Deloitte and Touch, who take workers through hours of question and answer period, plus one-on-one counseling sessions to determine how each person can fit into the roles available in the merged company or move on smoothly.

So far, over 100 workers have been through the Mobility Centre and just a few of them have been affected by redundancy.

Management explained that the process started from the senior level staff it is gradually trickling down through the ranks so that once the leaders of each department are confirmed, they can now help in the selection of the team they will work with.

“We have very skilled human resource from both Airtel and Tigo so we are taking our time to ensure that we extract the best of the best and that is why the process seem to be taking time,” she said.

Way forward

On the way forward for the merged company, Roshi Motman said they are currently working on merging the customer shops, cell sites and data centers in a strategic fashion that would provide customers the best experience on the network.

She is confident that with the combination of Airtel’s strength in intra-city fibre spread and Tigo’s strength in the inter-city fibre network, the merged entity will be a force to recon with in the industry.

Recapitalization

“This merger is good for this country because soon we will be recapitalizing the company to bring a boost in the economy and also ensure some decent competition that inures to the benefits of consumers in the long-run,” she said.

She noted that examples around the world shows that where just a few telcos operate in a country, there is value for each of them, so she trusts that the merger would in the long run create value for all industry players and stakeholders.

Roshi Motman said the company would also be combining the strengths of Airtel Money and Tigo Cash on the mobile money market to provide customers the best of service backed by enough liquidity in the hands of merchants.

“We will pay a great deal of attention to making all our processes very easy for customers so that their experience on our network will be the best one,” she said.

AirtelTigo has 18 months to complete the merger at all levels, and management says even when the merger is completed they will still maintain the two sets of number blocks of 026/056 and 027/057.

Source: Samuel Dowuona

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