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Telkom: Retrenchments are unavoidable

Telkom warns it will have to eventually continue with its retrenchment plan despite a Labour Court ruling.

Telkom Direct store. Picture: Facebook.

JOHANNESBURG - Telkom is warning it will have to eventually continue with its plan to retrench staff, despite the Labour Court's order.

On Wednesday, the court ruled in favour of Trade union Solidarity and another two unions, which brought an urgent application to stop the company's planned restructuring.

Telkom is in the middle of a turnaround plan that aims to bring down costs and better its ability to compete with wireless operators MTN and Vodacom.

The court ordered the telecoms firm to go back to the drawing board and withdraw the retrenchment notices until all internal processes are exhausted.

While handing down his ruling on Wednesday, presiding Judge David Gush ordered that the matter go to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration(CCMA) within five days.

The plan was implemented two years ago.

Telkom's Jacqui O'Sullivan said although the court had ordered the company to stop the process, retrenchments are unavoidable down the line.

"The process of restructuring Telkom is a business imperative, it's a key requirement. So while this is a temporary delay, we'll get back on track once we have concluded the dispute resolution."

Telkom currently employs at least 18,000 people and the company said it needs to eventually cut 7,800 jobs in total.

Telkom has moved to clarify that retrenchment packages that it offers to workers are above and beyond what the law requires and help ensure that the employees have funds to fall back on.

Unions representing the employees claim Telkom has not been informing them on important information regarding the restructuring and say they are worried that the company is not following procedure.

The Communications Workers Union's Aubrey Tshabalala said Telkom has violated internal processes with its restructuring plans.

"Telkom has been violating the processes internally by retrenching workers in the name of costs cutting."

O'Sullivan refuted this claim, saying numerous meetings were held with the unions and severance packages they are offering workers are the best.

"Packages that we offer are significantly more generous than what is required by law. We have an additional social plan whereby we'd put funding up to R60,000 which will allow them to set up business, allow them to go into some sort of education programme to further their education."