Telkom on Wednesday rejected the allegations by union Solidarity that it was ‘waging a war’ against its own employees. By Gugu Lourie
Telkom is forging ahead with its turnaround plan and is not ‘waging a war’ against its employees, Jacqui O’Sullivan, Telkom spokesperson, said late on Wednesday.
The union alleged that Telkom, among other things, leaves no room for proper consultation about its current retrenchment process with trade unions. “Moreover, the way in which Telkom is dealing with this year’s wage negotiation’s is not fair in the least.”
O’Sullivan rejected the claims and said the telco was’nt “trying to make life difficult for the unions”.
Solidarity alleged that Telkom had four different labour processes under way, namely a section 189 retrenchment process, wage negotiations, two section 197 business transfer processes and a process concerning voluntary severance packages which started on Friday.
“If Telkom gets its way each of these processes holds negative consequences for employees,” Marius Croucamp, Deputy General Secretary for the Communications Industry at Solidarity, warned.
But O’Sullivan said there are 19 Union shop stewards, fully paid for by Telkom, of which 5 are Solidarity shop stewards.
“If the Unions chose to self-organise and prioritise their resources, they would have ample capacity to manage the ongoing processes,” she said, adding that the executives were working to stabilise the business to one that will ensure the long-term and sustainable growth of the company.
“The Telkom turnaround has made significant progress but we need to complete the last phase of this critical journey. Importantly, the completion of this multi-year turnaround strategy will allow the company to move out of an environment of restructuring and change,” she said.
Furthermore, Solidarity alleged that in its opening offer during this year’s wage negotiations, Telkom proposed no increase in terms of fixed earnings. This means that employees’ salary increases will be linked to their performance.
“We believe that the latter is unfair because in terms of an agreement between trade unions and Telkom, workers should receive a salary increase on 1 April this year. Therefore, it is also not clear whether the employees’ increase will be linked to last year’s performance. If that is the case, employees were unaware of this arrangement and could therefore not adjust their performance accordingly,” Croucamp said.
Telkom is not saying that salary increases will be linked to performance for full-year 2017, argued O’Sullivan.
She added that according to research Telkom’s existing wage structures are well above the market for similar skills.
“As a consequence, increasing our fixed wage structures is not affordable. However, variable incentives will be increased for good performers, particularly in the front-line of our business, in return for improved performance and productivity. Assuming an employee is able to meet their agreed upon targets and that Telkom performs more strongly next year than last year, the employee can expect to earn significantly more next year than the previous year.”
In addition, Solidarity accused Telkom of not wanting to consult properly with trade unions about the company’s retrenchment process which affects 300 employees, and that it wants to rush it through.
Meanwhile, Telkom has already started to finalise three new operating models which are believed to be the rationale for the retrenchment process. Telkom is, however, refusing to disclose information about this to trade unions.
“It is clear that Telkom wants to impose an irrational retrenchment process at all cost without consulting with trade unions in a proper way about the rationale of the process. This comes while the negative effects of Telkom’s previous retrenchment processes are already being felt and the company now has to hire contract employees to do the work of those who have been retrenched previously,” Croucamp said.
The timelines for the S189 processes are not dictated by Telkom, but rather by the CCMA, as defined by the Labour Relations Act, explained O’Sullivan.
Telkom is complying with the CCMA processes and the dates which the CCMA sets down.
She added: “Telkom has supplied the unions with more than 200 pages of confidential detailed information, specifically focusing on this restructure, however, due to the deliberate timewasting and delaying tactics of organised labour, we have not been able to consult in a meaningful joint consensus-seeking process on the content, with organised labour.
“We have not been given the opportunity to present this information, despite having undertaken two full-day CCMA facilitated sessions. This also means we have not been able to answer questions on the content, nor have we been able to share the detailed organisational structures, contained in this information, with our Telkom employees. These delays are at the heart of our frustration.”
Solidarity also accused Telkom of making voluntary severance packages available to employees on Friday without consulting with the unions.
The company hit back at Solidarity and said it continues to work in the best interest of its employees.
“Our people have been through a demanding restructuring period and are anxious to complete this journey. A number of Telkom employees have approach both the company and their unions, in recent weeks, requesting the opportunity to consider a Voluntary Severance Packages or Voluntary Early Retirement Packages option, as an alternative to retrenchment,” O’Sullivan said.
“We have listened to our people and we have acted and have made VSP/VETRPs available, ahead of the current spate of holidays, to give employees sufficient time to consider their options. We will continue to act in the best interest of our people and would hope the unions could follow suit.”