Go-slows hit Telkom call centres

Johannesburg - Staff intimidation and walk-outs have allegedly affected Telkom’s call centres as discussions with unions about the company’s restructuring plans have fallen through.

The telecoms company said “persistent illegal industrial action in the form of ‘go-slows’ at Telkom’s call centres” escalated on the weekend.

“Our service levels have been under severe pressure for a number of weeks,” said Telkom spokesperson Jacqui O’Sullivan in a statement on Monday morning.

“We would like to apologise to all our customers for the poor service levels. We have brought additional staff into our already outsourced call centres and have increased our resourcing of the non-call centre customer options”, said O’Sullivan.

Union talks fall through

The go-slow has affected Telkom as the company’s discussions with unions have failed to reach a consensus on the way forward regarding planned restructuring and outsourcing.

Telkom announced last month that it plans to outsource its call centres, IT Legacy Systems and internal printing, supply chain and properties.

The telecoms company said it has been in discussions with organised labour for five weeks as part of a Section 197 process.

According to the South African labour guide website, a Section 197 process deals with the "transfer of a business by one employer (‘the old employer’) to another employer (‘the new employer’) as a going concern".

“Telkom will proceed with the automatic transfer of staff from its call centre, supply chain and IT environments to new employers on 31 March after unions failed to secure a majority consensus on an additional offer from the company,” said Telkom in its statement.

Telkom further said that the South African Communication Union (SACU) and Solidarity asked that the telecoms company make Voluntary Severance Packages (VSPs) and Voluntary Early Retirement Packages (VERPs) available to employees affected by Telkom’s current outsourcing initiative.

Unions also requested that Telkom move the transfer date out from 31 March to 30 April.

“Telkom agreed to both requests. Written acceptance of the offer was required from the unions by Friday afternoon,” said Telkom in its statement.

“While Solidarity and the South African Communication Union (SACU) accepted Telkom’s offer ahead of the deadline, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) withheld the majority consent, which meant no agreement could be reached.

“Solidarity and SACU engaged very aggressively for their members and we believe the variation agreement was a reasonable middle ground for all parties. However, a majority consent is required and without such an agreement in place, we will have to proceed with the automatic transfers as planned at the end of this month”, O’Sullivan said.

Fin24 attempted to contact CWU for comment, but the union was not available on Monday morning to issue a response.

Meanwhile, Telkom said that it is continuing with its Section 189 consultations regarding the shutdown of 20 Telkom Direct stores.

Last month, Fin24 reported about the 20 stores that Telkom plans to close down.

Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act deals with requirements on process for retrenchments.

“Telkom’s Section 189 consultations, related to the closure of 20 nonviable Telkom Direct stores, continue today facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration,” said the company.

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