Image: African News Agency (ANA).
JOHANNESBURG - The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) on Friday slammed telecommunications company Perx’s plans to retrench employees it outsourced from Telkom 15 months ago, promising that it would look after them. 

This after Perx issued a section 189 notice to 400 employees in terms of the Labour Relations Act that allows an employer to lay off staff for operational reasons after consultations with their trade union representatives. 

The Sunday Independent reported in April 2018 that hundreds of jobs at Telkom could be on the line after the agency “unilaterally” embarked on a restructuring process that resulted in employees being outsourced to two international companies on short-term contracts. However, employees raised concerns about the manner in which the move was conducted. Some alleged that only black staff were affected by the current outsourcing process. 

In a statement on Friday, Fedusa said most of the affected workers were members of the Alliance, the South African Communications Union (Sacu), an affiliate of Fedusa, as well as the Communication Workers Union (CWU), an affiliate of Cosatu. 

It said this was what was left of the 600 employees who were outsourced from Telkom in April 2018 in terms of section 197 of the LRA. 

“All of the affected staff are employees that were transferred in terms of the section 197 process. One of the key provisions of section 197 is that workers’ new salaries and other conditions of employment at the new company or employer cannot be materially different from those at their old company or employer. “However, the principal argument that new employer Perx has advanced at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) section 189 consultations that commenced last month is that it can no longer afford to pay salary levels that these workers received at old employer Telkom, despite the fact that it formally pledged it could do so following due diligence and a service level agreement with the state agency,” said Fedusa. 

Perx argued at the CCMA that it would have to retrench these workers if it failed to secure an agreement with Sacu, the communications unions, and CWU on an alternative arrangements, which was to remove its medical aid and pensions contributions to former Telkom employees and their salaries from R23 000 a month to between R8 000 and R10 000 a month that it paid its own employees. The Perx section 189 notice points to a worrying trend.

“Perx has now become the third company to which Telkom has outsourced workers, that is also planning retrenchments after BCX and WNS, which actually effected retrenchments. “Like Perx, the latter had also committed to upholding the requirements of section 197 following due diligence processes,” said Fedusa. 

The federation said although Telkom was not legally responsible for these retrenchments after 12 months had passed in terms of section 197, the decision to outsource its own employees in the first place cast a visible shadow over their fate. 

In April 2018, the Sunday Independent spoke to two sources who independently corroborated each other in their claims that only OP1 level employees were transferred, while branch managers were spared. They also alleged that white employees on the OP1 level had their positions amended to ensure that they were not moved to the new companies. 

“This is only affecting black people within Telkom. White people who were consultants on OP1 levels were given administrators jobs. 

The positions were never advertised for us to also apply. This was just to ensure that they are exempted from this,” said one employee, speaking on condition of anonymity

BUSINESS REPORT