Surprise move in Telkom dispute

Trade union Solidarity spokesperson, Marius Croucamp, has told BusinessTech that as many as 1,500 out of approximately 21,000 Telkom employees have accepted the group’s voluntary retrenchment package.

This represents an approximate 7% of the company’s total workforce.

Negotiations between Telkom and unions, including the CWU and the SA communication union began in March, after Telkom announced that management and bargaining unit staff would be afforded the opportunity of applying for voluntary severance packages (VSPs) and early retirement packages (VERPs) until the end of August 2013.

“I received an update from one of my sources this morning (Wednesday, 5 June) who told me that more than 1,500 workers have accepted severance packages,” Croucamp said.

Telkom said it could not provide numbers as negotiations were still ongoing.

“The VSP/VERP process is still underway and will continue until end August 2013. The outcome of this process will not be assessed on the reduction of the number of employees, but on the overall impact of the Company’s cost structure.

“This will be monitored continuously throughout the process to ensure that the Company reaches the desired state of cost efficiency,” Telkom said in a statement.

On Wednesday, unions met with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), with talks having reached a stalemate for the umpteenth time.

Solidarity accused Telkom of negotiating in bad faith after it had withdrawn its revised wage offer amid a mandating process with members about the latest offer.

Telkom last week presented a revised offer to trade unions after a dispute had already been referred to the CCMA following the rejection of Telkom’s final offer of a 1.5% increase by trade unions.

Telkom upped its offer to 6%, which CWU immediately rejected, seeking an 11.5% increase. Solidarity, meanwhile, is demanding an 8.8% increase.

Croucamp said that Telkom’s offer of a 6% increase comprises various conditions, including no forced retrenchments over the next three years.

However, the telco withdrew this condition at a meeting on Tuesday.

The amended offer is for a three year agreement of which the second and third years would be linked to a differentiation model, Solidarity said.

Telkom could also offer voluntary retrenchment and voluntary early retirement packages to employees during this period, the union added.

Croucamp said that at a meeting at the CCMA on Wednesday, Telkom brought the same offer back to the table.

“They submitted their previous terms,” he said, adding that Solidarity will not agree to more than a one year wage deal without job protection.

Negotiations will continue next week with all parties expected back at the CCMA on 24 June.

Croucamp stressed that the union does not want to consider strike action yet. “This is a step-by-step process. We don’t want to consider the possibility of strike action,” he said.

More on Telkom and Solidarity

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Telkom wage dispute sent to CCMA

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Telkom retrenchments on the way?

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Surprise move in Telkom dispute