Union claims Telkom 'dishonesty' over job cuts

Telkom's workforce numbers about 18 000.
Telkom's workforce numbers about 18 000.

Labour body Communication Workers Union (CWU), which has over 6 000 members from Telkom, says it is disappointed with the telco's dishonesty surrounding its latest round of job cuts.

This after Telkom said it will offer voluntary separation and voluntary early retirement to qualifying employees starting today.

In a statement, the telecommunications giant says the cumulative effect of past regulatory decisions has resulted in Telkom subsidies of approximately R70 billion to local mobile operators.

Telkom says it has implemented multiple initiatives to ensure its continued competitiveness in this context.

Telkom's staff count in 2015 was put at 18 333, down from 19 197 in 2014, and 21 209 in 2013. Now the workforce numbers about 18 000.

In 2016, Telkom issued a retrenchment notice stating that around 300 jobs at its corporate office will be affected by the process. It also intended to transfer 254 employees to another company in compliance with section 197 of the Labour Relations Act.

"A primary concern during this process has been to safeguard jobs from market and economic pressures. We continue to engage with the regulator on the impact of these historic decisions," says Telkom in regard to the latest job cuts.

Last month, Telkom group CEO Sipho Maseko threatened that if the Independent Communications Authority of SA's (ICASA's) draft call termination rates are not altered, the company will change its business model, cease operations in rural areas, and be forced to cut jobs.

The draft regulations seek to further reduce mobile termination rates, the price mobile and fixed network operators charge each other for terminating calls between networks.

The draft regulations propose a glide path period where a charge for terminating a call on mobile and fixed location would be 12c and 8c respectively, from October 2018 to September 2019; 10c and 5c for the period October 2019 to September 2020; and 9c and 3c from October 2020 onwards, says ICASA.

ICASA is calling on all stakeholders to actively participate in the consultation process on the draft call termination rates.

Telkom argues that ICASA has proposed that fixed termination rates should fall by 70% compared with a reduction of only 31% in base mobile termination rates (MTRs). The small reduction in MTRs represents a missed opportunity to reduce the cost to communicate for the majority of South African telecoms users and disproportionately targets Telkom, the company says.

Speaking to ITWeb this morning, CWU secretary-general Aubrey Tshabalala said there should be no job cuts at Telkom this year.

"Although Telkom has decided to offer voluntary separation and voluntary early retirement to qualifying employees, essentially what this means is they are cutting jobs," said Tshabalala.

"We are very disappointed because of Telkom's dishonesty as they have not told us the number of employees that they are targeting. They are doing this because they want to continue slaughtering jobs without our knowledge."

However, Tshabalala said CWU supports Telkom in its fight with ICASA over the draft call termination rates, although he pointed out there has been no progress from ICASA regarding this.

CWU will now consult with its members over the job cuts, and Tshabalala said the labour union cannot do anything legally to challenge Telkom as employees are not being forced out of the company but volunteering.

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