Picture: Leon Nicholas.

Johannesburg - Telkom will cut about half of its workforce as Africa’s largest fixed-line operator seeks to reduce spending and help stabilise the business, according to a labour union.

Telkom will start the process of firing more than 9 500 of its 19 000 employees within the next six months and will focus on the field services division, the South African Communications Union said in an e-mailed statement.

The Pretoria-based company had planned to cut a third of its employees, chief executive Sipho Maseko said late last year.

Telkom spokesman Pynee Chetty wasn’t immediately available for comment.

“We are going to court,” SACU General Secretary Karriem Abrahams said by phone today.

“Last year Telkom made an 11 billion rand loss, this year there’s a 3.9 billion profit. Last year there wasn’t need to retrench.”

Telkom plans to reduce its costs by 5 billion rand through job cuts after the phone company halted years of sliding sales partly caused by falling fixed-line usage.

Maseko said earlier this month that he predicts stable revenue through 2017.

Telkom shares gained 0.6 percent to 48.72 rand at 4:34 p.m. in Johannesburg.

The stock has increased 74 percent this year, the second-best performer on the FTSE/JSE Africa All-Share Index. - Bloomberg News