Union embarks on ‘fully-blown’ Telkom strike

Johannesburg - Hundreds of Telkom staff have launched strike action against the company this week over a pay dispute.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU), which is behind the strike, says Telkom workers need a cost-of-living inflation linked salary increase.

CWU has also said that it cannot recommend that its members participate in a ‘Performance Pays’ scheme which kick-started at Telkom on August 1.

"We've been on what we call the first phase of the strike which we basically embarked on last week, which was your go slow...your picketing,” CWU secretary general Aubrey Tshabalala told Fin24 by phone.

"As of yesterday [Thursday] we've embarked now on what is called a 'fully-blown' strike indefinitely all over the country. So, that's where we are at the time,” said Tshabalala.

Tshabalala told Fin24 that over 4 000 of its members at Telkom have gone on strike on Thursday and Friday this week.

But Telkom disputes this figure as the company, in an emailed statement to Fin24, said that 950 employees were on strike on Thursday and that this number dwindled to 302 on Friday.

Telkom further said that it hadn’t experienced operational issues as a result of the strike.

On Thursday, CWU also marched to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) in Sandton to hand over memorandums of demand to companies such as Telkom and MTN.

Marches also took place in Cape Town and Durban, said Tshabalala.

Tshabalala said that Telkom “didn't come to collect a memorandum yesterday” at the JSE - a move that has sparked union anger.

"I think that was sheer arrogance,” Tshabalala told Fin24.

Failure to reach agreement

The dispute between Telkom and the CWU also stems from a failure between the two parties to reach an agreement this year.

After undergoing a process to shed almost 4 000 jobs during the last financial year, Telkom in June 2016 this year reached a deal with SACU (South African Communications Union) and Solidarity that involved halting retrenchments for two years.

READ: Telkom puts retrenchments on hold

As part of the deal, Telkom launched its R700m ‘Performance Pays’ scheme that enables employees to earn up to 12% more for the value and service delivered to customers.

Telkom also said that no salary increases will be activated in the current financial year, but that in April 2017 all staff will receive a 6% increase and continue to participate in Performance Pays.

CWU, though, is the only recognised union that has not signed the two year deal.

"We are not the signatories of that agreement. We are part of the discussions,” Tshabalala told Fin24.

Despite CWU’s unhappiness, Telkom said it’s going ahead with its Performance Pays initiative.

READ: SA strike season warming up

“After many months of discussion and collaboration with organised labour about rewarding employees, Telkom has decided it can no longer delay the opportunity for employees to significantly enhance their monthly income through the Performance Pays scheme and wishes not to exclude any employee to participate and determine their own destiny,” said the company in a statement.

“Telkom wishes to assure all CWU members in the bargaining unit that they will be able to participate in the Performance Pays scheme from Monday 1st August,” added Telkom.

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