Telkom says its discussions with the Communication Workers Union (CWU) over voluntary severance and early retirement packages — known as VSPs and VERPs — have deadlocked, allowing the company to go ahead with the offers to affected employees.
However, the CWU says the real point of dispute is over plans by the telecommunications operator to outsource business functions it deems to be not core to its operations.
In a statement on Tuesday, Telkom says that it made no progress in talks with the CWU on Monday night. It said the union has now chosen to declare a deadlock over the talks.
It says two other unions, the South African Communications Union (Sacu) and Solidarity, have accepted Telkom’s offer, but the CWU has not.
“As CWU had withheld their majority consensus, the offer was withdrawn from all unions,” says Telkom spokesman Jacqui O’Sullivan.
“While Telkom respects the right of our people to choose to be affiliated to a union, we also know that union members are firstly Telkom employees. Our affected employees have made it very clear that they want the option of a VSP or VERP in making their final decision. This has repeatedly been communicated by many of the affected employees to their Telkom line managers,” she says.
“As Sacu and Solidarity accepted the initial offer, Telkom then approached these two consenting unions with the opportunity to sign a variance agreement with Telkom. This agreement legalised Telkom’s offer of VSPs and VERPs to just those two unions.
“Over the past two weeks, Telkom has engaged with CWU on a number of occasions to try and secure a fair and equitable outcome for all employees affected by … process. Despite Telkom’s repeated efforts to secure the option of the VSP and VERP for all affected CWU staff, the union has still not agreed to sign a variance agreement with Telkom. The company’s last meeting with the CWU ended yesterday evening, once again with no progress having been made.”
O’Sullivan says Telkom does not believe it is in the “best interests of CWU members to be barred from accessing the VSP and VERP option, simply because their union has chosen to deadlock”.
The company will now engage directly with CWU members as to whether they want to accept the retrenchment packages on offer or not.
However, CWU spokesman Aubrey Tshabalala says this is “unfortunate”. “This move [to approach CWU members directly]shows Telkom’s desperation,” he says. “Initially, Telkom said it will never allow CWU members to take voluntary severance packages as they were hellbent on cutting jobs.”
Tshabalala says the real point of dispute is the outsourcing plan as agreement has not been reached on which companies would benefit from this process. In an interview with TechCentral yesterday, Tshabalala said: “The ownership of those companies must come to workers in the form of cooperatives.”
Telkom said earlier this year that its call centre operations and staff, some legacy IT billing systems, the internal printing division and the network and operations and retail supply chain units would be outsourced.
“Talks will continue today, but we have mobilised our members,” says Tshabalala. The union said on Monday it will not strike over the issue. — © 2015 NewsCentral Media