Court halts Telkom retrenchments

The Labour Court in Johannesburg has ruled that Telkom’s restructuring and retrenchment process be stopped, according to trade union Solidarity.

Last month, the telecommunications company announced that it plans to cut 4,400 jobs through voluntary severance packages or voluntary early retirement packages.

Subsequently, the company entered into talks with unions including Solidarity.

Those talks fell through after Solidarity accused Telkom of turning its back on previous agreements regarding retrenchments.

The matter subsequently went to court, and according to Solidarity,  Judge David Gush ordered Telkom to retract its restructuring and retrenchment notice.

Furthermore, trade unions must refer a dispute regarding the interpretation and application of the collective agreement within five days, Solidarity said.

A cost order was also granted in favour of Solidarity against Telkom, the union said.

“This judgment is a victory for Telkom workers who are regularly being subjected to restructuring processes. Solidarity will do everything in its power to ensure that Telkom abide by the court order and follow the correct procedures,” Solidarity DG secretary Johan Kruger said.

Solidarity pointed out that Telkom ignored an agreement on restructuring processes it had concluded with trade unions in 2008.

In terms of this agreement, Telkom has to meet with trade unions and reach a settlement before the company may embark on a restructuring process. Although the unions had declared a dispute with Telkom on 19 June over the planned retrenchments, Telkom carried on to issue a section 189 retrenchment notice to trade unions on 22 June.

In terms of Telkom’s current restructuring process as many as 4,400 employees could be retrenched, while a further 3,200 could be redeployed to other companies, Solidarity said.

Telkom responds

In response to the ruling, Telkom’s Managing Executive for Group Communication, Jacqui O’Sullivan said the company will study the full detail of the judgement to allow the group to determine its next steps.

“While the judgment is disappointing, this is a temporary delay in the restructuring of Telkom, which remains a key business requirement for the future sustainability of the organisation,” she said.

“The judge has ordered that the dispute, which relates to information sharing, must be referred to the CCMA with five days. The judge also ordered that the resolution should be expedited. We certainly would want to see a swift resolution of the dispute, to allow the very necessary restructuring process to continue.”

O’Sullivan said further that Telkom has “engaged extensively with organised labour and will continue to follow all required processes to ensure we continually seek to serve both the best interest of the business, as well as our people”.

Telkom also clarified that the Section 189 notice was only served on unions – not individual members of staff. Therefore the court order requires the group to withdraw the letter issued to organised labour.

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Court halts Telkom retrenchments