Telkom was continuing to terminate contractors’ services despite earlier assurances it would postpone retrenchments until the end of December, trade union Solidarity charged on Tuesday.
“Contractors affected by these retrenchments are employees with a direct fixed-term contract with Telkom. Employees from labour brokers are not included,” said spokesman Jaco Kleynhans in a statement.
About 100 contractors’ services were terminated on Monday. “The process of terminating employees’ services started in October this year already and the services of several employees were already terminated last month.
“However, some of these employees who still showed up for work today were turned away.”
Kleynhans said Telkom last week assured employees that the planned retrenchment of both temporary and contract employees would be postponed to 31 December.
Solidarity had received no formal notification of reported plans by Telkom to permanently employ the retrenched temporary contract employees, Kleynhans said.
In response, Telkom referred to a media statement issued last week in which it pointed out that its agreement with labour included a two-year moratorium on the forceful retrenchment of permanent employees. This was in effect until 31 March 2011.
In an interview with TechCentral last month, Telkom group CEO Reuben September (pictured) promised that Telkom would adhere to an agreement with unions not to retrench any staff before March 2011.
Telkom said it employed more than 4000 temporary staff acquired through labour brokers and that reviews showed a need to reduce temporary staff in certain business areas.
“It must be noted that Telkom is not directly terminating the employees of the labour brokers, but is reducing the levels of service provided by these suppliers,” it said. “The process of reviewing the services rendered by third-party suppliers will continue as the company endeavours to drive down costs in our business operations and processes.”
Telkom said it was trying to reduce the number of temporary employees and not full-time employees. This process had no impact on the moratorium on the forceful retrenchment of full-time employees.
Solidarity viewed these retrenchments, and those of temporary employees, as unfair because Telkom did not follow consultations as set out in the Labour Relations Act, he said. It believed that, in light of this, the retrenchment process should be started afresh.
“In terms of legislation, employers must also follow this process when employees on fixed-term contracts are retrenched before the agreement expires,” said Kleynhans. “The requirements of the process include, among other things, that a consultation process between trade unions and the employer take place in order to investigate alternatives to retrenchment and to agree on a severance package.”
He said this had not been done.
Telkom, meanwhile, said it had been involved in extensive discussions with organised labour and that a joint task team had been formed to deal with the matter. It said this team would meet this week, after which recommendations would be made to Telkom’s restructuring and company forums to ensure a “coherent way forward”. — Sapa