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We must do something about LIME

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Fri Jan 11, 2013

Editor: We must do something about LIME. We cannot sit idly by and watch this company execute a policy that is inimical to the public good. LIME seems to have more regard for its cell towers and satellite dishes than for its customers and employees. It is unacceptable and undesirable for this profitable neocolonial enterprise to continue to periodically lay off workers without concern for the consequent social and economic hardships.{{more}}

I said in an early 2009 article that LIME, which is simply a renamed subsidiary of Cable & Wireless Communications, is known for the systematic degradation of workers in the region. The company dismissed 1,200 Caribbean workers between 2008 and 2009, while it reaped windfall profits. There is now a new wave of retrenchment, even though Caribbean revenue for Cable & Wireless Communications for 2012 increased by 37.8 per cent and reached US$1.17 billion. The company’s gross profit margin for the region is 24 per cent. The New Year’s news from Barbados was, however, that 97 LIME workers there would be sent home. Fifteen faithful workers in St Vincent and the Grenadines, including well-known company veterans like Cicyln Joseph and Fitzgerald Huggins, were made redundant in September and more people are set to be axed. When will it end? How many more to go?

The most unfortunate thing is that a local boy is doing the bidding of heartless foreign men. The “country manager” does not shape policy nor make decisions. He, with the air of authority, carries out errands on behalf of his bosses, even as they deny him and other members of staff acceptable terms of employment. Mr Jack knows about the discrimination that he himself has faced and the historical discrimination between local and foreign Cable and Wireless employees. He suffers in silence to cling to his title. He has the vain task of satisfying, through job cuts and by other means, the insatiable appetite of shareholders who couldn’t care less about unemployment in St Vincent and the Grenadines. We continue to be stripped of our riches and our honour 500 years after Columbus arrived.

LIME has confirmed itself as one of the most heartless employers the Caribbean has ever known and its customer service performance in all areas falls below international benchmarks. The results of a 2012 National Initiative for Service Excellence (NISE) customer satisfaction survey carried out in Barbados show that LIME has a dismal ranking among utility companies. LIME had the lowest customer satisfaction index score (54 out of 100). Digicel was the industry leader, with a score of 83. Digicel customers thought they were receiving value for money, while LIME customers thought they were being ripped off. Our situation is not much different. Our situation might be worse. The rate of complaints for LIME customers was four times higher than the complaints rate for Digicel customers. It is not surprising, therefore, that Digicel had high scores where customer loyalty and customer retention are concerned.

There are no winners with LIME. Its employees have no job security and work in poor conditions. The customers are not satisfied and the company, quite strangely, seems to think that sending home workers would help solve its severe customer service problems. These problems would almost surely be compounded by the loss of skilled and experienced workers and the replacement of human beings with brainless answering machines. There is also, ironically, no real evidence that lay-offs have served the company’s financial interests and they certainly haven’t served our national interests. We must ensure that our national interests are protected. There is work for the trade unions and for the National Telecommunications Regulatory Commission (NTRC) to do. The Minister of Labour should also get involved. We must do something about LIME.

R. T. Luke V. Browne
lukebrowne@yahoo.com

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