It appears that a potentially crippling strike at Telkom has been averted. The Communication Workers Union (CWU), which had threatened to take its members out on strike over grievances, now appears to have accepted an offer made by the company.
The union’s general secretary, Aubrey Tshabalala, says he is encouraged by talks with Telkom management over the future plans for the operator.
Last week, the CWU threatened to go on strike after talks over voluntary severance and early retirement packages fell through.
On Thursday last week, CWU members held a protest outside the offices of the department of telecommunications and postal services in Pretoria. Protesters called for the heads of Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko and chief procurement officer Ian Russell, with placards stating “Fit for the Future … Reconnect, Retrenchment, Outsourcing … what’s next Ian and Sipho.”
The protest came after talks with Telkom reached an impasse, with the union withholding its majority consent on the voluntary severance and early retirement packages. The union also expressed its concerns with the proposed outsourcing of various functions.
In February, Telkom announced plans to restructure its business, outsourcing noncore operations, rationalising its IT systems and closing retail stores, among other cost-saving moves.
The company promised to keep job losses to a minimum and denied a claim by labour union Solidarity at the time that job cuts are planned in its field service (maintenance) division.
Telkom agreed to the make voluntary severance and early retirement packages available to employees affected by Telkom’s current restructuring initiatives. The plan has already been accepted by the two other unions recognised by Telkom, namely the South African Communications Union and Solidarity.
Tshabalala says the CWU is “firmly opposed to a reduction of jobs through retrenchments”.
“While we are not necessarily agreeing with outsourcing, the ownership of those companies must come to workers in the form of cooperatives.”
He says the union has taken the matter to the ANC to share views on how Telkom’s restructuring plans might affect South Africa as a “developmental state” while still allowing the company to be competitive.
“We are encouraged that the Communication Workers Union has indicated that it will extend the voluntary severance packages and voluntary early retirement packages to its members,” says Telkom spokesman Jacqui O’Sullivan. “However, a signed variation agreement is required from the CWU before Telkom can formally extend the offer.” — © 2015 NewsCentral Media