By Brad Haynes
(Reuters) - A rigorous cost-cutting program at debt-burdened Oi SA has hundreds of measures - including leaving the Brazilian telecommunication’s company’s 17,000 staff sweltering in the dark if they work late in its offices.
Chief Executive Bayard Gontijo said in an interview on Monday that the company's strict new 7 p.m. policy to switch off the air conditioning and turn off the lights is both a source of power savings and a big way of reinforcing a crackdown on the amount of overtime worked.
"The first time we turned off the lights, people wanted to stay. They were trying to work with lighters. Now they realize: the lights are turned off because you guys have to do your work in the regular shift and then you have to leave," said Gontijo.
The Brazilian constitution mandates a pay bump of at least 50 percent for work beyond eight hours per day. A hiring freeze and the tighter overtime policy helped Oi reduce personnel costs 10 percent in the first quarter, even before the phone company cut full-time jobs by 6 percent in April.
Oi has been struggling with a massive debt load and mounting losses following a series of missteps. The slimmer administrative structure and improving operating margins have given Oi more time to consider big strategic moves in Brazil and Africa, Gontijo told Reuters during a visit to New York on an investor roadshow.
If a dark desk is not enough to remind employees to end their workday after eight hours, Gontijo said, the lack of air conditioning in the company's Rio de Janeiro headquarters gets the message across - particularly given the city's extreme heat and humidity for much of the year.
(Reporting by Brad Haynes; Editing by Martin Howell)