May 30, 2008
C&W workers bracing for changes, job losses

Employees at Cable & Wireless (C&W) here in St Vincent and the Grenadines are bracing for the changes that will come over the next 18 months, including the loss of jobs, as the company streamlines operations in their 13 Caribbean territories.{{more}}

“The mood, of course, brings a lot of hesitation. It brings a lot of uncertainty….It brings a lot of chaos, upheaval,” admitted C&W’s St Vincent Manager, Angus Steele, as he discussed the realities of the new format that C&W will be adopting in the region.

At a press conference in Barbados on May 23, the company announced plans to reshape its business interest in the Caribbean, and to pursue a single, pan-Caribbean entity.

According to a press release issued by the company, the new approach is designed to offer a more consistent set of services, respond to competitive pressures, and capitalize on advances in technology, which enable the provision of faster, better and cheaper customer services.

But as is the case with such stream-lining projects, Steele admitted that the company is on the way to becoming “leaner.”

Steele said that the new move was inevitable, and gave one example of the need for a streamlined operation.

He noted that with regard to promotions for special days like Mother’s day and Valentines, the situation now exists where in every individual territory campaigns are organized, when it could very well be a promotion that can be centrally structured for all the islands, cutting cost immensely.

Managers in the various islands would have spoken to their staffs, sensitizing them about the impending changes, but Steele told SEARCHLIGHT that while the anxiety is understood, he told his staff that the new structure will also present opportunities for them, which they should take advantage of.

“One of the things people need to do is stop thinking about being in jobs forever, and instead think about how they could continue to develop themselves so that they could continue to be marketable,” Steele said.

In relation to the number of persons that may be sent home in the various islands, including from St Vincent and the Grenadines, which has a staff of 128, Steele told SEARCHLIGHT that it was too early to say.

The new structure will see the United Kingdom based Cable & Wireless International (the parent company of Cable & Wireless Caribbean) act more as a financial investor, freeing up C&W Caribbean to “create a truly Caribbean business operated wherever possible, by Caribbean people for Caribbean people,” the release states.

Steele, however, noted that one of the challenges over the next few months would be to implement the new structure, while continuing to function, serve customers, meet targets, under the old structure – in essence two operational structures operating side by side, as one is fazed out.

This is while staff members mull over, worry about, their own futures.

Steele told SEARCHLIGHT that he believes that in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the transparency with which things are done will help the staff to cope with these challenges.(KJ)