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Strike averted at Telkom

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has called for the removal of Telkom chief executive Sipho Maseko and threatened to hold “a mother of all strikes”, which would shutdown the company.  

The union held a press briefing in response to last week’s reports that Telkom planned to proceed with staff transfers.  The telecommunications group said it would go ahead with the automatic transfer of staff from its call centre, supply chain and informative technology at the end this month.  This came after talks between Telkom and the CWU fell through, with the CWU withholding its majority consent on voluntary severance and early retirement packages.  

This was despite the other two unions, the SA Communication Union (Sacu) and Solidarity, accepting the move after Telkom agreed to certain amendments to its original proposals.  Telkom’s spokeswoman Jacqui O’Sullivan said that without the agreement in place from a majority consent, Telkom would have to proceed with the automatic transfers at the end of this month as originally planned.  The CWU indicated that its members were extremely unhappy and disapproved of the move, adding that it was incensed by the intended outsourcing of certain business units to private service providers.  The CWU, which has already started a number of go-slows and picketing at some of Telkom’s branches, indicated it was preparing for a strike that would cause a total shutdown of the group.  Telkom also plans to continue with its section 189 (retrenchment) union consultations regarding the shutdown of 20 Telkom Direct stores.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU), which had threatened to take its members out on strike over voluntary severance and early retirement packages, now appears to have accepted an offer made by the telecommunications company.

 The union’s general secretary, Aubrey Tshabalala, said he was encouraged by talks with Telkom management over the future plans for the operator.  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.  Telkom agreed to make voluntary severance and early retirement packages available to employees affected by its restructuring initiatives.  The plan was accepted, with certain amendments, by the two other recognised unions, namely the SA Communications Union (Sacu) and Solidarity.  But the CWU withheld its majority consent on the packages.  

Tshabalala indicated that the union had 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.

 He also said the CWU was “firmly opposed to a reduction of jobs through retrenchments” and, while it did not necessarily agree with outsourcing, “the ownership of those companies must come to workers in the form of cooperatives.”  Telkom spokesperson Jacqui O’Sullivan stated:  “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.  However, a signed variation agreement is required from the CWU before Telkom can formally extend the offer.”