FEDUSA Calls on Treacherous Telkom to Stop Retrenchments and the State to Dissolve the Board

29 May 2020

The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) and the South African Communications Union (SACU), its telecommunications sector affiliate has called on Telkom to put an immediate end to a renewed Section 189 process that might lead up to the retrenchment of 3 000 workers. On Thursday Telkom announced that it was lifting the suspension of a Section 189 consultation process that had been put in place on the 24th March 2020.

FEDUSA is horrified by the dishonest opportunism as the treacherous Telkom board continues to show its hand through deliberate exploitation of economic challenges. As the economy is attempting to recover from the grips of COVID 19, suffering some of the worst job losses and a severe downturn, Telkom is attempting to arbitrarily and without due process move forward with their retrenchment strategy. Yet the irony of the matter remains the fact that Telkom remained an essential service provider throughout the entire Lockdown that has crippled many other economic sectors. Passive aggression, painted as a voluntary process, begs the question based on ethics and morality of how enticing employees to give up their employment in the face of fear mongering and enhanced severance packages, continues to go unchecked.

Yet in an acknowledgement, certain management categories who have previously been part of the overall exercise have now conveniently been exempted and protected from the slaughtering process, leaving the backbone of Telkom’s technical and operational manpower as the key scapegoats. To add insult to injury, Telkom has instructed their subsidiary companies in yellow pages to advance retrenchments, while terminating security company contracts from the end of May 2020, placing a further 600 people on the streets. As numerous companies facing financial distress due to COVID 19 have applied for relief, it appears that Telkom have exempted themselves from this process and instead continued to pursue its own selfish agenda.

FEDUSA believes that the planned retrenchments have nothing do with the national lockdown that has been necessitated by the COVID-19 crisis but are a direct result of the utility’s management ineptitude. “In fact, while the COVID-19 crisis has indeed had dire consequences for many industries, it has also presented the Information Technologies (IT) industry with a golden opportunity of facilitating highly profitable remote working and learning,” said FEDUSA General Secretary Riefdah Ajam. “We can see evidence of these new technology driven business opportunities in the plethora of other IT firms across the nation are expanding and growing while Telkom on the other hand clearly lacks the imagination to seize the same opportunities.

Ajam said in addition to failing to take advantage of an increased demand for internet service driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, Telkom had also continually failed to take advantage of the boom in fibre technology prior to the crisis. “Repeatedly over the past decade, Telkom’s Board has made poor decisions, pursuing growth in already saturated data market, while throwing away their near monopoly in broad band internet provision and fixed line services,” she said.
“This has been great for the Board and the executive, providing huge bonuses and dividends but has weakened the company. The time has come for the entire management to be replaced and the Board to be dissolved. Once a new Board that is interested in the future of the company is appointed, we can then re-engage in real discussions about repositioning Telkom for long term sustainable growth”.

SAA’s business rescue practitioners were forced to revisit and change some of the proposals by the courts recently. If a financially ailing SOE like SAA, can turn around and preserve jobs, then how is it that a profitable entity like Telkom is allowed to exacerbate the jobs bloodbath ? As justice was served by the courts this week, declaring former SAA Board Chairperson Dudu Myeni officially delinquent for life for her role in plundering SAA, so too will FEDUSA move with speed to explore all options of have the Telkom CEO and Board members equally declared delinquent.

(460 Words)
For interviews please contact:
Ms Riefdah Ajam
FEDUSA General Secretary
079 696 2626
Issued by:
Frank Nxumalo
FEDUSA Media and Research Officer
072 637 8096