Generous Benefits Lead Employees to Oppose Privatizing Bogota Telephone Company
Bogota Mayor Enrique Peñalosa has made little secret of his intention to sell the public utility Bogota Telecommunications Company (Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Bogota), and has thus received substantial criticism from the Colombian left and from company employees who want to the company to continue in the public sector. Why is Penalosa’s plan so controversial?
According to the newspaper KienyKe the answer is simple: the large number of benefits that ETB employees receive; benefits that are not enjoyed by any other Colombian state employees. These include two annual bonuses received, in the months of December and June, which are, by Colombian law, equal two months of salary, while for the rest of Colombians it is only one.
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In addition they receive a holiday bonus equivalent to 45 days of salary, while the other Colombians who enjoy this benefit receive only a 15 day bonus. In addition, during Easter (which falls in either March or April) they receive the so-called “Fish Premium” which is equivalent to another 15 days of work and another bonus of 32 days to which is added a performance bonus that can reach up to a monthly salary.
In addition to all the aforementioned benefits, for each five year period worked, they receive additional bonuses that can be between 2.5 and 5 monthly minimum wages depending on the time an employee has spent working for the organization. These bonuses also factor into increased pension payments, which has made ETB one of the highest spending companies on pensions for its employees: they spent $ COP 2.2 trillion (or USD $752.4 million) per year just on pensions.
Also, employees’ children are entitled to scholarships for high school or college studies, costing the company an estimated COP $12 billion a year (USD $4.1 million).
These benefits, which were instituted in 1944 when the company was a communications sector monopoly with large annual profits, will cost Colombia taxpayers COP $62 billion (USD $421.2 million), in addition to the 12,000 scholarships.
In addition to this, ETB owns two schools for the children of employees that entail large operation, payroll, transport, and food costs that are assumed by the company. In addition, they operate a vacation resort whose costs are also covered by the organization.
Finally, they have an EPS (health plan) to which employees are required to be affiliated and the medical costs of the employees and their families amount to COP $14,000 million a year (USD $4.7 million). Not to mention that the employees’ union receives payments of COP $351 million (USD $120,042) a year for travel, vehicles, cellular plans, courses, and training.
What is clear is that costs at ETB are out of control. Unsurprisingly, during fiscal year 2015, ETB had losses of COP $37,000 million (USD $12.6 million) that were paid for by public money according to the KienyKe report.