Solidarity on Friday declared a wage dispute with telecommunications company Telkom, the trade union’s spokesman said.
“Telkom indicated during today’s [Friday] round that it will impose a two year moratorium on retrenchments, provided that trade unions will accept a wage increase of only 4.5 percent,” said Marius Croucamp in a statement.
This “amounts to extortion, since employees now have to choose between job security and a liveable salary”.
Solidarity declared the dispute after three rounds of wage negotiations.
Telkom was not immediately available to comment.
Croucamp said there was “room in Telkom’s salary budget since the company did away with 1877 employees at the beginning of the year by means of voluntary severance packages”.
This had saved 9.2 percent of Telkom’s salary budget, and left room for a wage increase of between eight to ten percent, he said.
The company should also compensate those employees left for their scarce skills.
“Almost nine percent of Telkom’s total labour force accepted voluntary severance packages. Of the 1877 employees who took voluntary severance packages, 1650 already vacated their positions in March. The rest left at the end of April,” Croucamp said.
“Shortly after, Telkom realised that it has now come up against a substantial skills shortage and several of those who already vacated their positions, were lured back with temporary contracts to transfer their skills to the remaining personnel.”
In the first round of negotiations, Solidarity asked Telkom to impose a two-year moratorium on retrenchments, and apply it retrospectively from April 1, 2011.
Telkom said on the release of its annual results earlier this month it had “neither the agility to seize market opportunities nor the ability to absorb competitive pressures ad infinitum”.
It therefore needed to “aggressively tackle the cost conundrum”.
“Labour support is vital in this area,” Telkom said.