Telkom has said that media reports that it has been interdicted from proceeding with its plans to “realise cost efficiencies”, are inaccurate.
The court order, which MyBroadband has seen, states that Telkom has been interdicted from proceeding with the section 189, 189A, and 197 consultation process with any other union without including the Information Communication Technology Union (ICTU).
Telkom was further directed to comply with section 189(3) by furnishing documents and relevant information to any of the unions that were part of the court action (CWU, Solidarity, and SACU) which have not received the relevant documents.
Once all the unions have the documents, the process can resume.
Telkom’s planned retrenchment of 105 workers was halted by the Johannesburg Labour Court on Wednesday, the Information Communication Technology Union (ICTU) said.
“As we will be going back to the table we will make it clear to Telkom that their plan to sell and retrench is opposed by ICTU unapologetically,” spokesman Thabang Mothelo said in a statement.
The union brought an urgent application against the telecommunications service provider. He said the court not only stopped the current proceedings, but also compelled Telkom to furnish ICTU with all relevant information which Telkom had not previously done.
The company said in October that letters had been issued as part of a legitimate process and that it needed to focus on “long-term commercial sustainability”.
It said affected staff were given the opportunity to apply for new positions, or to take voluntary retrenchment or pension packages.
A total of 676 of the workers affected by the process had been placed in alternative positions within Telkom, while 302 took voluntary severance packages.
Trade union Solidarity said in October that 105 workers, of which it represents 16, received termination notices at the beginning of the month — giving them one month’s notice before they were no longer employed.
“Telkom’s sin was to retrench employees by serving them with notices that their employment will be terminated, prior to consultation,” Mothelo said on Wednesday.
Telkom was not immediately available for comment.
Statement from Telkom
Following the media reports and release of the ruling, Telkom has provided the following statement:
It is disappointing that the Information Communication and Technology Union (ICTU) have chosen to completely misrepresent the facts contained within today’s Order by the Labour Court of South Africa. Telkom’s restructuring process has not in any way been halted by the order. The Court granted the relief as neither Telkom nor the other unions oppose the application.
The ICTU will be included in all the current formal consultation processes, once the formal consultation process begins.
South African law differentiates between recognised and registered unions. The ICTU is a registered union but is not recognised by Telkom. The Labour Relations Act also states that registered unions must be included in formal consultation processes on matters such as a Section 189 and Section 197 processes, if their members may be affected.
Telkom is committed to following the letter of the law in the execution of its turnaround strategy. In line with the law, the ICTU were invited to attend the first formal consultation session with organised labour, which was scheduled for Friday 20 February 2015. At the outset of the meeting, organised labour required a number of process matters to be addressed. These discussions were required ahead of the start of the formal consultation process and therefore had to be undertaken as engagements within the Company Forum structure.
While Telkom was willing to allow the ICTU to remain in the room for those discussions, the Communication Worker’s Union (CWU) objected to the ICTU’s presence, as the current recognition agreement only allows participation by recognised unions in the Company Forum. On the basis of the CWU’s objection, the ICTU left the meeting.
In line with the law, the ICTU will be included in the formal consultations. Those consultations have not yet begun. As with all registered unions, the ICTU will be given access to all relevant documents and information related to the Section 197 and Section 189 process. That information has not yet been shared with any union, as the law requires that it be shared at the start of the formal consultation, which has not yet begun.
Telkom did not oppose the application as the Company has not to date, nor will it ever, bar the ICTU from any formal consultation process.
The ICTU’s claims that Telkom has retrenched employees “prior to serving them with notices that their employment will be terminated prior to consultation”, is simply untrue.