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Telkom, CWU union talks deadlocked

By Staff writer

Talks between Telkom and Communications Workers Union (CWU) have deadlocked over voluntary severance and early retirement packages for staff members of the fixed-line telephone group’s non-core activities such as call centre that are being outsourced.

Telkom said on Tuesday it has offered voluntary severance and voluntary early retirement packages to CWU members affected by the Section 197 process currently underway. This move follows after discussions between Telkom and CWU reached a deadlock.

Two weeks ago, Telkom approached organised labour with an offer related to our current Section 197 process to outsource elements of our business to external companies.

The offer was two-fold. Firstly, Telkom offered all unions the opportunity to access voluntary severance packages (VSP) and voluntary early retirement packages (VERP) for their affected members. Secondly, Telkom offered to extend the transfer date for exiting Telkom employees from 31 March, to 30 April.

SACU and Solidarity accepted the offer. CWU declined the offer. As CWU had withheld their majority consensus, the offer was withdrawn from all unions.

“While Telkom respects the right of our people to choose to be affiliated to a union, we also know that union members are firstly Telkom employees. Our affected employees have made it very clear that they want the option of a VSP or VERP in making their final decision. This has repeatedly been communicated by many of the affected employees to their Telkom line managers”, said Telkom spokesman, Jacqui O’Sullivan.

As SACU and Solidarity accepted the initial offer, Telkom then approached these two consenting unions with the opportunity to sign a variance agreement with Telkom. This agreement legalised Telkom’s offer of VSPs and VERPs to just those two unions.

Over the past two weeks, Telkom has engaged with CWU on a number of occasions to try and secure a fair and equitable outcome for all employees whom are affected by this Section 197 process. Despite Telkom’s repeated efforts to secure the option of the VSP and VERP for all affected CWU staff, the union has still not agreed to sign a variance agreement with Telkom. The Company’s last meeting with CWU ended yesterday evening, once again with no progress having been made.

Telkom has committed to undertake its turnaround strategy in a transparent and fair manner. We do not believe it is in the best interest of our people, for CWU members to be barred from accessing the VSP and VERP option, simply because their union has chosen to deadlock. In the face of this deadlock, Telkom is exercising its right as the employer, to approach its affected employees directly.

All members of the CWU whom are affected by the current Section 197 process are therefore now eligible to apply for a VSP or VERP.

Telkom said it was disappointed that CWU has been unwilling to sign a variance agreement, however, “we believe that deadlocked negotiations should not negatively impact the options available to our affected employees”.

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