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Union angered by Telkom’s proposed job cuts

Telecoms firms plans to cut up to 3 000 staff members.
CWU says in a statement it finds the proposed job cuts by the company 'ridiculous and undermining not only to workers but the country at large'. Image: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

South Africa’s Communication Workers Union (CWU) is angered by Telkom’s plan to cut up to 3 000 workers, it said on Sunday and called for an urgent meeting with the ruling party and the minister of communication.

Telkom, in which the government holds a stake of about 39%, announced in a letter to unions on Wednesday that it could cut up to 3 000 of more than 15 000 staff as it struggles with declining performance in fixed voice and fixed data services.

Read: Telkom in talks with 20% of workforce over cuts as economy wilts

The telecoms firm is also grappling with organisational and operational inefficiencies linked to fixed voice and data services, which require more staff to install, maintain and market, it said in a letter to unions seen by Reuters.

CWU said in a statement it finds the presentation by the company “ridiculous and undermining not only to workers but the country at large,” adding that in 2016 the company presented almost the same reasons to cut over 2 000 jobs and further outsourced thousands more jobs.

“CWU is calling for an urgent meeting with the ruling party and the minister in order to resolve this matter,” it said.

“We are further warning Telkom not to continue with their plan to retrench workers but engage on a meaningful dialogue in an attempt to avoid any jobs bloodbath or face mass action.”

The affected jobs include support employees, specialist, operational employees and supervisory and management levels in its wholesale division Openserve, the consumer unit as well as in its corporate centre.

On Thursday, Solidarity union wrote to Telkom asking for a moratorium on forced retrenchments and that a retraining programme be implemented during the moratorium “so workers can be equipped with new skills to help Telkom grow in the fast-changing information environment.”

“When a company fails to train its workforce for new challenges, it should not retrench the workers; it should get rid of the top management,” Dirk Hermann, Solidarity chief executive said.

The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) on Friday called on the government as the majority shareholder in Telkom to dismiss the entire board with immediate effect for “gross leadership failure over the last five years and a lack of strategic direction and planning.”

South Africa’s Ministry of Communications did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Telkom will share more information on the retrenchments once it has engaged further with its employees and unions, Telkom spokesman Mooketsi Mocumi said on Wednesday. 

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