Telkom and Solidarity appear headed for a showdown after the union accused the telecommunications operator’s CEO, Sipho Maseko, of “lying” when he said at a press conference on Thursday that Solidarity and another union, the South African Communications Union (Sacu), were close to a wage deal.
Maseko said at the press conference that the Communication Workers Union (CWU) had reached a settlement agreement with Telkom in the long-running wage dispute. He claimed that the two other recognised unions at Telkom, Sacu and Solidarity, were expected to sign the wage settlement agreement shortly.
But Solidarity has lashed out at this claim, and another by Maseko that the CWU is the majority union at Telkom, accusing the Telkom CEO of dishonesty.
Solidarity spokesman Marius Croucamp tells TechCentral that the CWU is not the majority union at Telkom, and that Telkom knows this to be the case. “A majority union is defined by the Labour Relations Act as one that has over 50% representation. CWU has 38%. Solidarity and Sacu combined represent a further 36%, and the rest are not unionised.”
Croucamp has taken exception to a media statement issued by Maseko shortly after the conclusion of Thursday’s press conference. “It’s really sad that it seems no matter who is in charge of Telkom, the misleading behaviour continues.”
Solidarity had a bilateral meeting with Telkom on Wednesday this week and told the company that it was still liaising with its members about the way forward, according to Croucamp.
He says Telkom continues to block the unions’ communication with its members. Solidarity last week accused the company of blocking e-mails to its members. After investigating the issue, Telkom found there was a technical problem with the computer belonging to the Solidarity member responsible for communication with union members.
“We intend formally to litigate against Telkom,” Croucamp says. “They don’t want us to have a proper mandating process. We were unable to complete the process because of Telkom.”
According to Croucamp Solidarity received a tip-off about Telkom’s plans to hold a signing ceremony with the CWU on Thursday and that Telkom had asked those members of the media invited not to convey the information to Sacu or Solidarity.
Croucamp also suggests that Telkom may come to rue its decision. “If you side with one union and undermine the others, eventually it will backfire on you,” he says.
Meanwhile, Sacu president Michael Hare says there are two remaining issues that need to be resolved before his union will settle with Telkom. He echoes Croucamp’s sentiment that the agreement with CWU is not enforceable because it isn’t the majority union.
“When I spoke to the company last night, they said they were amenable to the changes, but they had set up the press conference already,” Hare says. “I told [Telkom] last night we would not be attending Thursday’s press conference.”
Sacu maintains it “cannot sign the agreement in its current form”.
One point of contention is a once-off payment Telkom has proposed for people in the top-25% salary bracket. “Our view is they need to add that increase to their total package given the fact the increase will be calculated at the 50th percentile. Instead of these staff getting a 6% increase, they’ll get something closer to 3%.”
Another objection relates to salaries for support staff, which have been reduced. These need to be increased “to a maximum of their salary grade”.
If those two conditions are met, Hare says Sacu will settle. Sacu has requested a meeting with Telkom before next Thursday to allow the union to sort out its mandate from members and to allow the company to make the necessary changes Sacu is demanding. — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media