Johannesburg - Leaders of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) were caught off balance yesterday at their press conference on Telkom retrenchments when a journalist informed them the fixed-line operator had announced in the morning it was acquiring 100 percent of JSE-listed information and communication technology services provider Business Connexion for R2.7 billion.

CWU deputy president Clyde Marvin said: “It becomes difficult to say you will oppose a deal when you don’t know about it.”

Thabo Mogalane, CWU’s acting general secretary, had earlier said the union noted “with disgust the ill-informed and extremely insensitive” intention by Telkom to retrench close to 1 000 employees in managerial and specialist ranks, beginning with 700 managers in the first phase.

He said Telkom’s rationale for embarking on this “desperate neo-liberal solution” was due to fierce competition in an environment where the company’s profit margins had declined, while those of its competitors had risen.

Telkom had said that its management was “bloated” and needed to be reduced.

“This intended action defeats and goes against the grain of the government’s objectives of job creation and job retention. This public asset has already shed thousands of jobs during earlier rounds of restructuring and cannot afford another jobs bloodbath.”

South Africa still lagged in telecommunications infrastructure and resources, which were crucial for a growing modern economy, Mogalane said. Telkom should rather be recruiting more workers to expand its operations in line with its developmental mandate

Trade union Solidarity said yesterday that it had reason to suspect that the number of posts that would be affected by Telkom’s restructuring would eventually be far greater than the figure of close to 2 600 that the fixed-line telecoms provider had announced so far.

Marius Croucamp, a spokesman for the union, said the inference came amid Telkom’s continued unwillingness to consult and communicate with employees and unions regarding the new structure.

He said Telkom’s current process of management restructuring was so extensive that it would be impossible to avoid restructuring junior levels after it had been implemented.

He said: “The end result will in all probability be that Telkom will have to review its entire personnel structure, following the management restructuring process.

“If Telkom’s management are deliberately withholding the expected overall personnel restructuring from trade unions, it would cast doubt on the soundness of their judgement and lead to a serious breach of confidence between trade unions and employees on the one side, and Telkom’s top management on the other.” - Business Report