Haiti: workers strike at privatized phone company

Workers at Nationale Communication (Natcom), a Haitian telephone company, began striking in the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area early in the week of April 11 to demand a full 36 months’ salary in compensation for their impending layoffs. Dozens of workers occupied Natcom offices in Delmas in the north of the capital and in P├ętionville, a wealthy suburb to the southeast.

The strike spread to other cities over the next few days, including Cap-Ha├»tien (North department), Les Cayes (South department) and Mirebalais (Center department). In Cap-Ha├»tien administrative personnel continued to work, while the strike was only partial in Mirebalais. “Aware of the precarious situation in Mirebalais in relation to communication, we’re a little flexible about the work stoppage started by our colleagues in Port-au-Prince and other cities,” said Pedro, a technician.

Natcom is the new name of the former state telephone company, T├ęl├ęcommunications d’Ha├»ti (Haiti T├ęl├ęco), which was privatized in April 2010. The Vietnamese telecommunications company Viettel acquired 60% of the shares, with the Haitian government retaining 40%. As part of an accord between Viettel and the government, employees were offered a choice between two plans for voluntary retirement. Plan A provided a severance package for workers leaving immediately, while Plan B guaranteed employment for one full year but gave the company the option to terminate the employees at the end of the period, on Aug. 31, with much less severance pay than in Plan A.

The Plan B workers, many of them long-term employees, are now striking for a larger severance package. If management goes on “turning a dear ear, we’re going to pursue our strike, and it will be less peaceful next week,” some Delmas strikers warned on April 13. (AlterPresse, Haiti, April 13, April 16)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 17.

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