Terminated EFCL workers call for help, recognition

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Workers affected by the closure of the Education Facilities Company Limited voiced their grievances on Tuesday, represented by the Communication Workers Union.

In a termination notice to the workers, EFCL explained that the company has been unable to meet operational expenses for some time now, including salaries.

It states: “The Company has for some time now been unable to meet its monthly operational expenses, including the payment of salaries to employees, and to pay debts as they fall due. The company has been inundated with litigation, which has caused an additional strain on its resources and frozen its bank accounts. The company is unable to carry on the business for which it was established and has decided to close down its undertaking and go out of business.”

EFCL said it will facilitate salary payments from Oct 2021 to March 2022.

One staff member, Vanessa Hagley revealed that EFCL, unlike most state enterprises, did not operate on subventions, she explained that the project management outfit was tasked with earning income for itself.

“Every project we engaged in was sanctioned.”

She said the letter was expected, but the manner in which it was sent, was not. “The content of the letter was poor, and it is undeserving. Something should have been done prior to us receiving those letters.”

“These termination notices were very void of any sort of sensitivity, empathy, sympathy towards the efforts made by these 41 people who are left in EFCL. The least amount of service any one of us could identify with would be at least 10 years. So we were all here in the days of EFCL greatness,” she continued.

According to Ms Hagley, staff would have asked for meetings with the new board, which never happened. Saying that all 41 workers would have stood tall to fight for the company and demonstrated their willingness to assist, Ms Hagley said that they feel neglected, “No one is championing us.”

She called on the company to take this opportunity to affect change and do something that is good. “We are people, we have families, everybody has a family.”

Susan St. Bernard, a single mother who started with the company in 2009 could not hold back her tears. She called for the company to be fair. “Who is going to mind my child? Who will pay my rent for me? Who is going to send my child to school? Give us what we are owed, give us what we are due, give us what we worked hard for!” she begged.

Secretary-General of the Communication Workers Union Clyde Elder said much more than 41 employees of the education facilities company limited will be impacted by the company’s closure.

Recognizing that these 41 employees would have families and mouths to feed, Mr. Elder called on the government to ensure that severance payments are made to the workers. He also revealed that workers have not been paid salaries since October 2021.

“We call on the government to ensure that as the owners of EFCL, to do what is not only legal but what is right from a humanitarian perspective, from a moral perspective from an ethical perspective, to ensure that these workers not only get payment for their service but that they are paid their outstanding salaries to date as well as their severance or whatever payment that they get for service.”
Elder said that workers were told they would be paid outstanding salaries up to January, by Tuesday. He also argued claims made by the company of it not being viable, as he too explained that the company was never meant to make a profit. Mr Elder claimed that over the years, the government has not been making its relevant payments to the company.

“EFCL was not designed as a company that is going to make money. EFCL was designed as a company by the government to oversee, to project management, to look after the refurbishment, the construction of schools and also at some point in time it was responsible for the book rental programme.”

He continued, “Over the years, the government, not EFCL, the government has not been paying its debts to EFCL. So whenever EFCL oversaw a project on behalf of the government, the government would not have given EFCL the money for managing the project as well as the money to pay the contractors.”

According to Elder, since EFCL would have been engaging contractors, absorbing government from the responsibility, contractors would then go after the company. Despite this, he said the government still has not been giving the relevant funds to EFCL.

Elder claimed that usually, months will pass before the government gives EFCL any sort of relief. This, he said, would have resulted in the company’s closure.

EFCL was established in 2005 primarily as a project management organization to deliver, repair, and maintain educational institutions from the Early Childhood Care and Education level to primary and secondary levels across Trinidad and Tobago.