By Charleen Thomas, www.newsday.co.tt
HUNDREDS of residents in Trinidad and Tobago, as well as some parts of Grenada, will be without television viewing from next week, when the National Broadcasting Network (NBN) goes off the air. That is, if they do not have cable television. In addition, several employees have lost job opportunities they were due to take up on January 1, and the workers’ pension issue is still pending. Sources at NBN told Newsday once their transmitters are switched off next Friday, January 14, they won’t be able to be switched back on, because “they are very old.” The source also pointed out that it will mean the end of television for many persons in rural parts of Trinidad and the Eastern side of Tobago. Those televisions would therefore be useless at a time when Government is aiming for developed country status by 2020.
Newsday was told that NBN has at least three repeater stations and several transmitters which allow their feed to be received in hilly and dense areas. Whereas TV6 which will be the alternative for viewers, has concentrated on the economics and not on serving the entire population. Indeed Newsday was told by residents in deep south like Icacos Village, Cedros, Barrackpore and La Brea that the only station they now receive is TTT’s Channel Two. They said the TV6 reception is very poor and only at night is it clear enough to view. They are also without cable TV, since cable has not yet been introduced to the villages. Meanwhile, the mood of workers at the Maraval Road company is said to be mixed, with sources saying only about 40 percent of staff are “really ready to go home.”
Some are said to be blaming their representative unions for the quick demise of the company, while others are merely looking at their options, resigned to the fact that the treatment meted out to them was undeserved. Employees’ lockers have already been cleared and they are said to be waiting to leave. However job opportunities have also been reportedly lost because of the indecision over the closing date of the company. Sources say some employees got job offers and were due to take up the posts on January 3, but because the closing date was pushed back to January 14, some persons were told the jobs were no longer available. Sources also said that the pension plan is in a “state of flux,” since the insurers are saying it cannot be paid out to persons until they have reached age 60.
Newsday learnt that approval is being requested from the Board of Inland Revenue to have the pensions paid to persons 50 years old. The employee representative on the Pension Committee, Anthony Garcia, would only say “we are trying to unravel the issue.” Earlier this week, president of the Electronic Media Union of Trinidad and Tobago (EMUTT), Edward Camps, said while employees were “not pleased” with their VSEP packages, they will have no choice but take it and leave. Employees who have agreed to accept the VSEP worth over $30 million, had until January 5 to complete their application forms and submit them to NBN’s Human Resource Department. A notice of acceptance is expected to be issued today — and payments made on January 14. In addition to VSEP, employees are expected to receive an additional four percent payment on the gross payments, under what NBN calls the enhanced Termination of Employment Programme.
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