Telkom wage talks impossible: union

Trade union, Solidarity, says that it has become impossible to negotiate with Telkom as the telecoms firm continues to move the goal posts.

Solidarity said that the latest round of discussions, which took place at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on Monday (24 June) reached a deadlock after Telkom took its latest offer off the table, again.

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.

Solidarity spokesperson Marius Croucamp, told BusinessTech that the union was prepared to accept Telkom’s offer of a 6% increase over three years with minor changes to the original agreement of job security.

Solidarity had previously demanded an 8.8% increase.

However, he said that Telkom then withdrew its offer of 6% and replaced it with a “staggered model” based on functional areas. This, he said, would mean that lower end employees would receive more, with high-end employees receiving less.

According to Solidarity, this offer would cause “a lot of problems” and did not fit within its mandate as a union.

“This is the worst form of unethical behaviour I have seen in 20 years of negotiations. Its been a very lengthy process, extending 19 days,” Croucamp said.

“It’s become impossible to negotiate with Telkom. It’s very disappointing, and completely unethical,” he said.

A new date with the CCMA has been set for 4 July, with Solidarity saying it will not contact Telkom again until that date. “We just don’t trust them,” Croucamp said, adding that strike action still remains a last resort for its members.

Speaking at Telkom’s recent (14 June) results presentation in Sandton, Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko told investors: “I remain confident we will get to the right outcome.”

Telkom noted that employee expenses increased by 14.5% in the year ended March 2013, primarily due to the R434 million cost relating to voluntary severance and early retirement packages, the average annual salary increase of 6.5% and a higher bonus provision.

It said said that 1,411 bargaining unit and 178 management employees exited up to 31 May 2013 as part of its bargaining process. The group has an approximate workforce of 21,000 people.

More on Solidarity and Telkom

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CCMA calls for more Telkom talks

Telkom workers set for strike action?

CWU rejects improved Telkom wage offer

Telkom wage dispute sent to CCMA

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Telkom wage talks impossible: union