Unions take Telkom to court over retrenchments

2014-07-08 12:49

Two unions representing some of Telkom’s workers said they would take the landline provider to court over possible retrenchments.

The South African Communications Union (Sacu) said it believed Telkom was about to let go of about 9 000 of its 19 000 employees over the next six months, a claim the company said was untrue.

“We are drawing up the papers so that we can refer the matter. We intend going to court on the issue of the company not consulting with us,” said Karriem Abrahams, Sacu general secretary.

Telkom dismissed Sacu’s claims as speculation and said it was “not targeting specific numbers of individuals”.

The company has said it plans to cut out some layers of management, but has given no target numbers. It has said it plans to cut its costs by R1 billion a year over the next five years.

Separately, the union Solidarity, which represents mainly white workers, said it would file a court petition today to prevent the company from sacking its members based on race, claiming Telkom might use race as a criteria for laying off staff.

“It is not lawful that you take that approach,” said Johan Kruger, deputy general secretary at Solidarity. “Race should be irrelevant when it comes to retrenching people.”

Kruger, however, acknowledged that the company had not made any suggestion that race would be a factor in any retrenchment.

“It’s not been explicitly been stated, but the fact is that it is there,” he said.

“The reasons being put forward for taking race into account is that Telkom has to reach or maintain a certain BEE rating,” he said.

“The other reason is that they have a duty to reflect the national racial demographic within their workforce. So that is why they may take race into account and we are saying no, those two are not operational reasons when it comes to retrenching.”

Telkom said it would consider qualifications and experience in restructuring and underlined that employment equity was only “one of the four criteria that will be applied”.

Telkom shares have gained more than 70% this year after new management at the company tightened its belt and posted a profit.

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