/ 2 November 2004

Privatisation under fire in Telkom debate

Privatisation came under fire on Tuesday afternoon in a debate in the National Assembly on the planned retrenchment of 7 600 workers at South Africa’s semi-privatised fixed-line telephone monopoly Telkom.

Leading the debate, Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder said: “With a profit of more than R4-billion, Telkom announced their intention to reduce their headcount by 7 600 in the next three years. The CEO gets an increase and 7 000 people lose their jobs. Is this what privatisation is all about?”

Referring to Telkom worker Piet Erasmus, who has been retrenched, Mulder said: “While he was struggling to survive, he read in the newspaper that the CEO at Telkom received a salary of R11-million. That is R30 000 a day. I repeat, R30 000 a day. Telkom directors were paid R60-million last year. One American [director] received over R15-million.”

Mulder said: “Telkom management says they act on instructions from their board of directors. Who is the main shareholder in Telkom? They surely can do something.”

Pointing out that the main shareholder in Telkom is the South African government, he said until now there has been no real reaction from the government.

“Is it possible that the same government that promised in April to help create jobs now helps to destroy 7 600 jobs?”

Mulder said he wants the Assembly to meet Erasmus, “a Telkom employee. At the end of this year he would have completed 18 years as a loyal employee of Telkom. In the last five years, he was part of a team that installed more than two million new telephone lines — most of them in disadvantaged areas.

“He was proud to make a real contribution to better the lives of these people and to better South Africa. When he heard that Telkom made a profit of more than R4,5-billion in the past financial year, he was very excited. He predicted that Telkom’s management will thank them as workers for this achievement and that a personal bonus is a possibility.

“What really happened? The next thing he heard was that he would be retrenched by Telkom. He has a wife and three children. All his efforts to get a new job failed. Within months, the family will be without money. Most probably Piet will join these men on street corners with despair in their eyes.

“He asks what this people’s contract to create jobs and to fight poverty really means. From his perspective, the government creates poverty and fights jobs.” — I-Net Bridge