Unions slam Telkom's 'treachery' for putting job cuts back on table amid Covid-19 battle
CAPE TOWN – The Federation of Unions of SA (Fedusa) and the SA Communications Union (Sacu) have called on Telkom to put an immediate end to a renewed retrenchment process and for its board to be dissolved.
Last week, the semi-privatised state-owned enterprise announced it was lifting the suspension of a Section 189 consultation process that could lead to the retrenchment of 3 000 workers as the country moved to level 3 of lockdown.
Telkom first mooted retrenchments in January, which the unions have been opposing. Telkom has cited the weak economy and declining performance of fixed voice, which previously made up more than half of its gross revenue.
Before the lockdown in March, Telkom announced it would pay salaries earlier to allow staff to obtain essential items in anticipation of the lockdown.
Telkom chief executive Sipho Maseko said the company suspended the Section 189 consultation process facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), closed Telkom stores and to date had spent about R41.7 million on personal protective equipment.
“It is now common cause that the lockdown was intended to slow the spread of the disease. Looking at how Covid-19 has impacted people, economies and businesses around the world, it's clear that this virus and its impact will be with us for a while, in the least, for the remainder of this year,” he said.
Fedusa general secretary Riefdah Ajam and Sacu said they were horrified by the “dishonest opportunism, as the treacherous Telkom board continued to show its hand through deliberate exploitation of economic challenges”.
“As the economy is attempting to recover from the grips of Covid-19, suffering some of the worst job losses and a severe downturn, Telkom is attempting to arbitrarily and without due process go ahead with their retrenchment strategy. Yet the irony is Telkom remained an essential service provider throughout the entire lockdown.”
Fedusa said the retrenchments had nothing do with the lockdown but the utility’s management ineptitude.
“In fact, while the Covid-19 crisis has indeed had dire consequences for many industries, it has also presented the information technologies industry with a golden opportunity of facilitating highly profitable remote working and learning,” Ajam said.
“We can see evidence of these new technology-driven business opportunities in a plethora of other IT firms across the nation, while Telkom… clearly lacks the imagination to seize the same opportunities.”
The Information Communications and Technology Union (ICTU) said it was disappointed with the announcement by Telkom.
ICTU media officer Thabang Mothelo said the union was still studying the lawful effects, claiming that Telkom had proceeded to confirm the number of appointments, which were supposed to be consulted on.
“As far as the union is concerned, appointments emanating from a Section 189 process can only be done once parties have concluded the consultation process.
"Our view is that Telkom has contaminated the process by appointing senior executives while the consultation was ongoing,” added Mothelo.
Maseko said Telkom consulting teams would engage with organised labour consulting teams and the CCMA to set a date to resume the Section 189 consultation process.
He said in the resumption of the Section 189 consultation process, the company was committed to taking the utmost care to protect the health and safety of Telkom employees.