SA telco, union reach management agreement

Telkom SA Ltd. says that it has reached an agreement with the Alliance of Telkom Unions on its headcount management strategy, allowing the company to offer voluntary separation packages to all employees.

This, it says, follows constructive talks between the company and organized labour on its revised management headcount plan, which is designed to improve efficiencies and productivity in the business.

The agreement is between Telkom and the Alliance of Telkom Unions (ATU), which includes the South African Communication Workers’ Union (SACU) and Solidarity, the company says. SACU’s deputy general secretary, Jannie Volschenk, says ATU views the agreement as a great achievement in its endeavors to minimize forced job losses.

In terms of the agreement, Telkom says it will fast-track its three-year headcount reduction program to complete it this year. The company notes that it will do this by combining enhanced voluntary severance packages with other cost-saving measures, which, if successfully implemented, will put the headcount reduction figure at 2,903 on a voluntary basis.

According to Telkom the parties have agreed to the company’s proposal that if the target is achieved — in addition to its identified cost-saving initiatives — Telkom would put a 12-month moratorium on retrenchments. As part of the agreement, ATU proposed the establishment of a joint committee to oversee and monitor the voluntary process, as well as explore other possible alternatives to avoid involuntary separations in future.

Telkom readily accepted the committee, and further urged the Communications Workers Union (CWU) to participate in the committee’s work. Although the CWU supported the company in finding alternatives to possible retrenchments, it indicated that it would inform management whether it would participate in the committee’s deliberations by end of business tomorrow.

According to the company it has been following a responsible and proactive approach to reduce its staff numbers due to redundancies in the workplace, that, unfortunately result from technological advancement and changes in the ICT industry. Throughout this process Telkom says it has been consulting organized labour to seek common understanding on the impact the technological changes may have on the company’s skills base. “The agreement is a significant milestone which underscores the importance of a harmonious relationship between management and labour on how best to manage increased efficiencies brought about by the deployment of technology to ensure that the right people are in the right jobs,” says Oupa Magashula, Telkom’s human resources group executive.

“We have taken great care to implement alternative strategies to involuntary separation, including offering enhanced packages to all employees and investing resources in the training and development of employees to increase their skills levels and market value sustainability,” adds Magashula.