News : Clock Ticking on Telkom Retrenchments
Johannesburg, S. Africa, 23 Feb 2015 -- Telkom's plans to retrench 102 staff have taken a step back after unions insisted the issue first be discussed at a restructuring forum.
Yet, the company has not withdrawn retrenchment notices to staff who will be affected when it closes 20 of its 92 Telkom Direct stores. This has angered unions, which note the 60-day consultation process has already kicked off.
Last week, Telkom told its 18 500 staff members it would again implement a "turnaround strategy" to "unlock efficiencies". This comes after it retrenched over 300 managers and 480 call centre staff last year, and 1 800 employees voluntarily parted ways with the company a few years ago.
Unions have cried foul over its latest move, saying Telkom has not followed the correct consultation process. As a result, Telkom and its three unions will meet on Wednesday at the company's restructuring forum for further information-gathering.
Telkom did not respond to a request for comment, but spokesperson Jacqui O'Sullivan has said the telco engaged throughout the organisation, as well as with organised labour, to highlight the pressures Telkom is facing. She notes: "The reality is that Telkom's turnaround is necessary to secure the future commercial sustainability of the business."
O'Sullivan says Telkom informed unions about its current process and then communicated this to staff.
Telkom's current restructuring will see 20 Telkom Direct stores closed, affecting 102 staff, while its call centre operation, warehousing and legacy IT systems will be moved to an outsourced provider. Its rightsizing was discussed during a consultation process facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration on Friday.
South African Communications Union president Michael Hare says the Friday meeting did not deal with the retrenchments at all, noting this issue has been postponed until an information-gathering process on Wednesday, after which consultation will start.
Hare says this is concerning because the 60-day consultation period allowed for after retrenchment notices have been issued is "counting down" and there are now only 55 days to go. "We're actually postponing the inevitable."
Communication Workers' Union (CWU) general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala explains Telkom will have to "start afresh" with the retrenchment process, but has not withdrawn the notices, despite the union's call that it do so. He says this leaves staff in a tricky situation.
Solidarity spokesman Marius Croucamp concurs Telkom is not following the correct procedure, and accuses the company of not playing fair. "In our view, they're just playing games."
Croucamp says the union is looking at its options, and CWU has already indicated it will start rolling mass action on Wednesday.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Telkom South Africa:
Telkom SA SOC Ltd. is a wireline and wireless telecommunications provider in South Africa, and operating in more than 38 countries across the African continent. Telkom is a semi-privatised, 39% state-owned company.
Published: Thursday, February 26, 2015