Thursday, 12 November 2009

Roger Bara on Jersey Telecoms

When Bob Lawrence, the MD of Jersey Telecoms, was greeted by "Morning to you", on BBC Radio Jersey, I knew there were some tough and aggressive questions to answer. Usually Mr Bara begins with "Good morning to you", or even "A very good morning to you".

This was an interview about 80 planned redundancies over and above the 35 voluntary redundancies by the company in a bid to save £7 million pounds (1)

Of course, Bob Lawrence was asked some searching questions, and of course, prevaricated with "sound good" waffle. One of these was of course about the bonuses paid to chief executives, although Mr Bara only picked up on the bonuses - bad enough if the company is supposed to be cost-cutting, and not the staff pay freeze as well:

TOP executives at Jersey Telecom will get paid a total of £340,000 in loyalty bonuses later this year. The cash will go to seven directors of the States-owned utility company at the end of October. It is not known exactly how it will be shared out. Chairman John Henwood said that the payments were essential to keep the best managers at JT in the face of unprecedented competition, and that they had proved to be very successful in achieving that aim. However, the news has not gone down well with some staff members, especially as it is understood that some JT employees did not receive a salary increase this year.(2)

If it was even, it would be a cool £48,500 each. It is supposed - according to John Henwood - to be "essential to keep the best managers at JT in the face of unprecedented competition". Much easier, no doubt to cut staff pay and staff costs. That argument is one being heard again in the UK, as once more banks start to pay massive bonuses, and in recessionary times, it simple does not stand up. There will be people with sufficient expertise who are looking for work - and how much expertise really warrants huge differentials in salary anyway? It is the engineers, the support staff, who have the technical know-how, and all the training and expertise, after all, without which the pen-pushing men in suits would be quite superfluous.

Coming back to those front-line staff, Roger Bara also asked if services would suffer as a result of a loss of 80 staff. When told by Bob Lawrence that they would not suffer in any way, it was natural enough, but rather good, to hear Roger Bara go straight for the jugular: if the loss of these staff would not lead to a loss in services, what were they doing anyway then in their present jobs?

The reply was more bluster about savings made by technology, with no precise details as to how this suddenly impacted on the company's efficiency. Of course, technology can lead to manpower savings, but unless there has been some pretty significant piece of kit, be it software, hardware or both, the sudden loss of 80 jobs is hard to explain; and if it was that significant, as for instance when newspaper printing moved from hot metal to digital publishing, one would expect to see evidence of the change - as was the case with the newspaper revolution.


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