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Telkom to pay staff R5m after losing CCMA wages battle

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Telkom will fork out R5 million in back-pay to 1 175 employees next month, after the telephony group lost an arbitration case against labour union Solidarity.

The union announced yesterday that it had won an arbitration award against Telkom for the second time, in a matter related to the interpretation of salary increases for Telkom employees that were due from April 2017.

In 2016, Solidarity entered into an agreement with Telkom, in terms of which the parties had agreed on a 6% salary increase that would take effect in April 2017; however, the union says Telkom did not keep to the agreement and did not abide by its provisions.

Resultantly, more than a thousand employees had been unfairly disadvantaged.

“Telkom decided unilaterally to calculate the 6% increase on the 50th percentile of each individual’s functional area and not on the total package of each individual employee as per the agreement,” says Linda Senekal, Solidarity sector coordinator for the communications industry.

Solidarity explains this matter has dragged on since 2017, as Telkom took the first arbitration award given in Solidarity’s favour on revision. The matter was taken on revision to the Labour Court, which, in turn, again referred the matter to arbitration.

After several tense arbitration sessions, which took place between February 2020 and May 2021, Solidarity again won the case.

“What makes this such a huge victory is the fact that a major institution such as Telkom can, from now on, be taken to task not to treat agreements casually. Solidarity signed the agreement based on the mandates it had received from its members and would not have accepted an agreement that was not in the best interests of the employees and members,” says Senekal.

“Our main victory lies in the fact that we can now admonish Telkom to do the right thing in future, adhering to agreements and to not simply amend agreements and policies unilaterally at the expense of employees.”

In response, Telkom says it will honour the arbitration award, and will pay the affected parties next month.

“Telkom has received the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration ruling in relation to the Collective Partnership Agreement agreed to in 2016. In light of the fact that this matter has been in dispute for a protracted length of time, and in the spirit of goodwill and progress on the matter, we have decided to honour the ruling. The total number of employees impacted is 1 175 and the outstanding amounts will be paid to them in the August 2021 payroll.”

In terms of the award, Telkom must pay employees according to the provisions of the agreement as agreed upon in 2016, which means the 6% salary increase must be granted based on the individual’s total package.

“Amid these incredibly challenging times where employees all too often had to bite the bullet due to lockdowns and the pandemic, it is encouraging to know that when Telkom salaries are paid at the end of this month, those employees who are eligible for it will be able to jointly put an extra R4.6 million into their pockets. We are absolutely delighted with this,” says Senekal.

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