Ericsson 'must hire' Caymanians

No word on how many LIME workers will be rehired

Global communications giant Ericsson “must hire Caymanians” or face having its license to operate in the Cayman Islands pulled, government has insisted. 

In a statement released after LIME announced 39 job cuts in a deal to outsource some of its services to the firm, Kurt Tibbetts, the minister responsible for infrastructure, said hiring locals is one of the conditions of the license allowing Ericsson to operate here.  

All but two of the 39 employees affected in the shake-up, which will see Ericsson take responsibility for installation and maintenance work, are Caymanian. A spokesman for Ericsson indicated that the company would look to hire those laid off by LIME but was unable to confirm how many jobs would be available. 

Government did not say if they had agreed on a mandatory number of workers that Ericsson would take on, leaving open the possibility that the company could rehire only a small fraction of those let go by LIME. 

An Ericsson’s spokesperson said, “As part of the agreement, all of the impacted LIME employees will have the opportunity to apply for roles with Ericsson as it is building a team in Cayman to deliver services to LIME. Ericsson is committed to improve performance in LIME’s network taking advantage of the actual workforce.” 

Tony Ritch, the former general manager of LIME and now a board member, called the Rooster FM’s morning radio talk show to defend the deal. He claimed the “majority” of workers in other regions where the same move had been made had been hired by Ericsson.  

He said Caymanian workers who transfer to Ericsson would be able to stay on current health and pension plans as part of the deal. 

The partnership, which impacts roughly a third of LIME’s workforce, is part of a regional agreement for Ericsson to take over installations, repairs and maintenance work on its fixed, mobile, Internet and data networks. 

The Cayman Islands is one of the last countries in the region to make the switch. In Jamaica, 305 workers lost their jobs with LIME, prompting union action last spring. In Barbados, 200 were laid off. 

News reports in Barbados suggest that few were ultimately adversely affected by the move. According to Barbados Today, 130 were rehired by Ericsson and the others were offered new jobs at LIME, with union officials in the country broadly happy with the situation. 

It is understood that Ericsson officials, along with senior management of LIME, have been meeting with employees over the past few days. 

LIME’s spokesperson said its executives were too busy with that process to field questions from the media Tuesday. 

But Mr. Ritch, defending the company against widespread criticism from callers to the morning talk show, said the transition had been successful across the region and that LIME and Ericsson had dealt fairly and openly with labor unions and governments to ensure the best outcome for affected workers. 

He added that the move was designed to improve services to customers and insisted, “They (Ericsson) are not going to do that by shedding jobs and not investing in training.” 

He said Minister Tibbetts and Tara Rivers, the employment minister, had been involved in the process throughout, leading to the grant of a Local Companies (Control) License to Ericsson. 

In a press statement on Monday evening, government claimed it had moved to protect Caymanian jobs with the wording of that license and insisted it had the right to revoke the license if the company did not meet its obligation to hire local workers. 

“When we found out about this agreement, we immediately thought of Caymanian workers and insisted on the language in the LLC to ensure our people are hired,” Minister Tibbetts said in the statement. 

The statement did not reveal specifics of the license nor if there was any obligation on the part of Ericsson to hire a minimum number of employees. Asked to clarify on Tuesday, government did not respond by press time. 

Meanwhile, an island-wide Internet outage on LIME’s server from around 11 a.m. yesterday was caused by planned infrastructure network upgrades, a spokesman said.  

The upgrades were not initially expected to cause any service interruptions but ended up causing a 30-minute connection loss across the island. 

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