/ 29 March 2006

Unions threaten court action against Telkom

Solidarity and the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) have given Telkom a 4pm (Wednesday) ultimatum to withdraw a plan to give improved profit-sharing only to workers who did not participate in this week’s two-day strike.

”If Telkom fails to heed this notice, court documents will be served on Telkom at 4pm and the trade unions will go to court tomorrow [Thursday] to ask for an urgent interdict against the company,” said Solidarity spokesperson Dirk Hermann.

The parastatal’s decision compelled the unions to carry on with the strike, he said.

”Telkom’s plans are illegal and we have taken legal advice that indicates that our application for an interdict against the company is likely to be successful. Telkom not only received poor legal advice, but also bad labour-relations advice. The company’s actions are eroding its employee relations even further.

”At the conclusion of the strike, Telkom will not only have to implement a new profit-share model, but it will also face the challenge of regaining the trust of its workers,” said Jaco Kleynhans, another Solidarity spokesperson.

However, Telkom spokesperson Lulu Letlape said: ”There is actually nothing special in the letters [to staff]. It is in fact the revised offer that we sent to all the unions.”

It was up to Solidarity and CWU to contact Telkom about the revised offer.

Telkom made its revised offer on profit-sharing and wages on Friday, on condition that workers not strike this week. It was withdrawn when their industrial action continued on Monday and Tuesday.

Solidarity had claimed it would use Monday’s action to obtain a mandate from its members on the revised offer. The CWU rejected it outright.

They have since asked that it be put back on the table.

A third union representing 11 000 Telkom workers, the South African Communications Union, has already accepted an offer by the company.

The striking Telkom workers returned to their posts on Wednesday, when they were expected to conduct a go-slow and not do overtime. The company could not confirm whether this had indeed happened.

The unions have demanded R50 000 a year per worker from the company’s profits. They have also called for an 8,5% salary increase for general workers and a 7,5% increase for supervisory and specialist workers. Telkom is offering 6,5%. — Sapa