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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Mar. 21) – Telecom Fiji, the country’s sole provider of telephone services, is hoping mass resignations among its workers will meet a need to cut its staff levels by at least a third as part of a restructuring plan.

All its 1,200-plus workers have been given until the end of this month to decide whether they will take a voluntary redundancy package offered by the company.

Fiji Islands Council of Trade Union Attar Singh said the union would make a statement today regarding the development.

The Telecom workers union is an affiliate of FICTU.

Telecom union president Timoci Motokula confirmed that talks between management and staff hinged on the possibility of mass voluntary redundancies.

He said there were some workers willing to take up the voluntary redundancy package.

"At the end of the day the decision solely rests with the workers. What we want is for the company to make an official public announcement because this is their call," he said.

He added that the union had not accepted the company’s formula upon which it worked out the redundancy package.

"We are working something out. And as we’ve said before we will not accept the formula offered by the company, which was from the Public Service Commission," he said.

Motokula said that although the union supports the management plan to restructure Telecom, their main concern is the downsizing of the company’s work force.

It is understood that workers would be judged on performance during the second phase of the restructuring exercise.

This is not the first time that the Telecom board has had to consider voluntary redundancy, sources said. In 1994, the board rejected a union proposal for voluntary redundancy, which could have meant that the company would have had fewer workers to deal with during the current restructure.

"Those on contract will not be re-contracted and some have been offered compensation for the balance of their contracts," a source said.

The Fiji Times attempted to get comments from Telecom chairman James Raman and consultant Joe Mar but was unsuccessful.

The board is also under pressure over its failure to release results of an independent company audit ordered to avert strike action last year. The staff had given management a deadline to hear their grievances and called for an independent audit.

In Senate last year Ratu Josefa Dimuri questioned the conduct of the company’s board and managing director Winston Thompson.

Ratu Josefa said the company was going through turbulent times with the six members of the board being the same ones that sit on the Amalgamated Telecom Holdings Board the umbrella company for Telecom, Fiji Directories Limited and Vodafone Fiji Limited.

March 22, 2005

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