Telkom has signed a settlement agreement with the South African Communications Union (Sacu), bringing an end to a wage dispute with three trade unions that began in March.
Group CEO Sipho Maseko says he’s “very pleased” the company has reached agreement with Sacu. “Just to be very open and frank, I think there were legitimate questions that Sacu had … and I think those questions were resolved.”
He says Sacu must be commended for dealing not only with labour issues but for its interest in making a “valid and valuable contribution on some of the commercial issues in terms of how we run the firm”.
Telkom held a signing ceremony at its Pretoria offices on Monday. The settlement follows a similar ceremony last month where the Communication Workers Union (CWU) agreed to Telkom’s terms. The CWU represents the largest number of unionised Telkom employees.
The settlement is a three-year agreement in terms of which employees will get a 6,8% annual increase. However, not all employees will see the full increase as Telkom is taking the opportunity to address wage disparities.
“Depending what inflation does, we were sensible enough to agree that we will come together again and decide how we respond to it,” Maseko says. “It allows us to move forward very powerfully.”
Should the consumer price index move above 7,5% and remain at that level for a minimum of six consecutive months during the three years the agreement applies, the company says it will engage with unions again and consider revising the terms of the agreement.
Sacu president Michael Hare says Telkom changed the offer it put on the table several times since the previous agreement expired in March.
“There was a time when job security was on the table, which upset us, but once the reasons were explained to us we understood it,” Hare says. “In July, we were ready to sign, but the offer was changed again. Nevertheless, we are here now and we have signed.”
Hare says Sacu has been raising the issue of income disparity with Telkom since 2006, but “none of the previous CEOs have had the will to address it”.
“The management team has instilled trust. I’m confident the agreement will be implemented as per the terms of the agreement,” he says.
Trade union Solidarity has not signed the agreement, but its members will nevertheless be subject to its terms. “[Solidarity] is not going to sign,” Maseko says. “However, in the conversations we’ve had with them, they’ve indicated we can proceed and implement the agreement.”
Maseko says Solidarity has reservations about the agreement, “but they understand the context we’re dealing with”.
The agreement will be implemented on Wednesday.
Critics argue that Telkom is overstaffed and unable to address this because government remains its majority shareholder. Maseko says the company can’t guarantee that there won’t be retrenchments during the next three years.
“What I can guarantee is that between ourselves and our staff, we will give the turnaround of Telkom our very best shot,” Maseko says. “Therein lies the opportunity for us. If the performance momentum carries on, we effectively remove the need for retrenchments.” — (c) 2013 NewsCentral Media