Telkom’s current retrenchment policy, using race as a criteria, is illegal, according to laboour lawyers.
The Business Times noted that “race” has been listed as a selection criterion for retrenchments, something Telkom has rejected. Or has it?
“The fact is that Telkom’s focus is on retaining the right skills for its turnaround strategy and will consider several criteria throughout its restructuring process,” Telkom said in a statement earlier this week.
Employment equity is one of the four criteria applied to the restructuring, Telkom said, adding that just like any South African company it is required to comply with the Employment Equity Act.
Telkom aims to reduce its management pool which will affect up to 2,650 managerial staff. The company is looking to reduce the number of management layers and achieve an employee cost-to-revenue ratio of 25% over the next 5 years, from 30% currently.
The Business Times said it received internal documents showing that race will be a key factor in the retrenchment process.
A retrenchment notice sent to staff — officially called a section 189 letter — lists “employment equity” as one of the criteria. A further confidential “leadership consultation” document, said demographics, race and gender will be used to decide who stays, the Times reported.
Law firm, Bowman Gilfillan, told the paper that any company that included discriminatory grounds such as race, gender and sexual orientation as selection criteria for retrenchment could faces charges of unfair dismissals.
“It contravenes the Employment Equity Act and the Labour Relations Act. I hope the courts give them a good hiding,” said Michael Bagraim, a labour lawyer.
Trade union Solidarity has, this past week, filed papers with the Labour Court.
Telkom has already started retrenching in management, while the retrenchment process has already begun, with staff being asked to “reapply” for positions that will be made available, using race as a criteria, the Times said.
Telkom has earmarked March 2015 for completion, however, the Times said that “phase 2”, is due to kick-start in March 2016.