Concern mounts over state of affairs in telecoms sector
By Nsikan Ikpe
For several of the recently disengaged Nigerian staff of the African telecoms giant, MTN, it is indeed a very clear situation of double jeopardy.
Not only have they been compelled to quit the firm in these very trying times, they have equally not been granted any breather in terms of the repayment of loans and advances that the South Africa-originating telecommunication had guaranteed when they had been approached by banking services marketers to collect.
It will be recalled that MTN had executed the coup against her employees in the closing days of May and at the end of the exercise, only 200 staff had taken the offer to resign voluntarily but apparently the company was working to a designated script that had more names so 80 more staffers who did not apply to join the programme were also asked to leave.
Expectedly then, the atmosphere on disengagement day was mixed. While those who ‘volunteered’ had already taken some time to reconcile themselves to the situation and were calmly clearing their desks and prepping their work tools preparatory to handing them over to Human Resources, several of those who were now being forced out were doing so in tears.
There were also surprises especially as some of those asked to leave were seen as untouchables and heavy weights but they were asked to go all the same. Sources said those who didn’t volunteer but were asked to leave were some of the people that had indeed been targeted by the programme but they didn’t see the handwriting on the wall hence they had to be forced out.
On that day also, no cheques were distributed to the disengaged persons but affected staffers were told that their monies would be transferred into their accounts on the next working day which was a Tuesday. Meanwhile, MTN had informed the various that the staff members were leaving their employ which was another way of asking the banks to collect all that they were being owed. The banks accordingly put liens on the accounts and called for negotiations with the people involved. Indeed, the situation appears dire for some of these ex staffers who had taken loans from banks with MTN as guarantor and so paying off the loans now in one fell swoop is clearly leaving some of them high and dry.
The Difference also gathered that there are ‘plans to recruit younger replacements for the affected staffers’ which is euphemism for recruiting young people with foreign education. Right now however, no new appointments are being made but sources indicate that the MTN management would rely on expert firms like Philips Consulting to handle the recruitments since they may not be persuaded that their own Human Resources department would do a very good job of it.
And even before the dust of the earthquake at MTN had settled, another telecoms giant, Etisalat, which is embroiled in a serious engagement with its bankers over its inability to pay loans obtained in dollars some years back when the exchange rate was better than what obtains now, has moved against their staff and sacked a yet to be determined number. Unlike MTN however, Etisalat only managed to pay two months salaries as final settlement.
Some commentators are already imputing bad faith to the Etisalat sack. This is on account of the fact that when the UAE-originating firm’s bankers had threatened to take over the company, a few weeks ago on account of its debt overhang, it had run to the regulatory National Communications Commission, NCC which had intervened on its behalf, pleading that an outright bank take over of the company will lead to massive job losses. Ironically, now that they have been given a breather, they are repaying the same staff with mass sack.