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Oct 19, 1998

Telecommunications monopolies have to go

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As Caribbean countries get ready to face the many challenges of the twenty first century, telecommunication companies in particular, are being encouraged to create a more competitive environment that will better serve the interest of their workers and the region. The issue is being discussed at length, at a five-day conference called by the Caribbean Labor Congress and hosted for the first time in Belize. I attended the opening of the conference this morning at the Fiesta Inn. Among the many issues, telecommunications monopolies in the Caribbean.

The feeling among the over one hundred delegates attending the meeting is that there is a need to put an end to the monopolization of companies throughout the region.

Judith Wedderburn, Director, F.E.S.

“Well, when a company has a monopoly as in the case of Cable and Wireless, where in some countries, like Jamaica for example, by virtue of the agreement it has with the government, it is guaranteed a profit. So there is no incentive because it does not have to do anything and it gets fifteen percent increase anyway and if it doesn’t get a fifteen percent increase, if its normal operation doesn’t produces a fifteen percent increase, they just increase the rates, which is not what competition is about right. And in that situation it makes the workers more vulnerable because they don’t have any other telecommunication company to go and work for, so if they get laid off, they have years of skills and expertise and they don’t have another company to work for so in that sense the labor market is being described as inflexible.”

In the case of Belize, the Minister of Labor and local government, Jose Coye says while the problem is not as great as other Caribbean countries, he does believe B.T.L. rates are excessive which puts a strain on businesses which rely on the telephone.

Jose Coye, Minister of Labor and Local Government

“What is happening with telecommunications, the technology is still maturing and is becoming more and more cost effective so you are in fact getting far more returns than your investment. Therefore the company itself has an opportunity for the consumers to benefit by lowering of its rates. I have said this before publicly, first it was privately The profits I think are sometimes extreme and something ought to be done about it, so the consumers can also benefit from the technological changes that are coming to our monopoly.”

The delegates are also looking at opportunities and demands of new technologies that are cost effective.

Dr. Hopeton Dunn, Communications Senior lecturer, U.W.I.

“We are moving in an era, which we would like to see a greater use of the telecommunication technologies for education. Now if it is too expensive our schools cannot benefit from the technologies because they cannot pay the cost in a more competitive environment. If the rates are lower we can extend the network, we can extend the number of computers in schools we can extend the number of people to link up to the network.”

At the end of the conference recommendations will be made for trade unions strategies and approaches for the future. The meeting will come to a close on October twenty-fourth.

The conference continues on October twenty first with a Women’s Symposium, which will be officially opened by Dolores Balderamos, the Minister of Human Development, Women and Youth.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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