By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
The two Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) trade unions yesterday voiced hope for better industrial relations with appointment of a Bahamian as chief executive once again.
BTC staff were informed on Friday that Andre Foster, the carrier’s head of operations for the past nine months, will take over the top post from Garfield “Garry” Sinclair, pictured, on March 1. The latter will remain as Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) vice-president for the northern Caribbean, including The Bahamas, with Mr Foster reporting directly to him.
Mr Sinclair, confirming the move in a message sent to BTC executives and senior managers on Friday, said Mr Foster had been focused on “delivering best-in-class operational efficiency for The Bahamas” and will continue to have daily oversight of technical operations until the director of technology post is filled.
“Andre has enjoyed a stellar career with C&W Communications and, previously, Columbus Communications,” Mr Sinclair wrote, “which has uniquely prepared him for this new chapter on his journey.
“I know that we all have the same goal, which is to transform BTC into a customer centric organisation that connects with our customers and delivers services via high performing colleagues.”
A BTC spokesperson said a formal announcement on Mr Foster’s promotion will be made this week, while the two unions yesterday expressed a desire for improved industrial relations under his leadership as the trade dispute over the carrier’s latest early retirement initiative is due to be heard before the Department of Labour on Thursday.
Ricardo Thompson, the Bahamas Communications and Public Managers Union’s (BTC) president, told Tribune Business yesterday he did “not see any downside” to Mr Foster’s appointment, and added: “We’re hoping things get better and we’re able to sit at the table.
“We have an outstanding industrial dispute that coming up this week.” That relates to the Enhanced Early Retirement Programme (EERP) that was offered to 63 staff aged between 55 and 60 years-old in January, and was described by Mr Sinclair as “the most generous retirement package in the Caribbean”.
Mr Thompson and Dino Rolle, president of the Bahamas Communications and Public Officers Union (BCPOU), which represents BTC’s line staff, said the dispute with the unions was sparked because the company had made the offer directly to all workers falling into this age bracket rather than going through the two unions first - something they said was mandated by their respective industrial deals.
Both unions’ industrial agreements expired last April, and negotiations on a new deal have been delayed by COVID-19. Mr Thompson yesterday suggested that less than 50 percent of the workers targeted by the EERP had accepted the package, with around ten of his members choosing to do so. Mr Rolle similarly confirmed that some 20 BCPOU members had also accepted the offer.