Telkom has been given the go-ahead to continue its retrenchment process after the Labour Court in Johannesburg yesterday dismissed an application launched by two unions for an urgent interdict to pause it.
The application was launched by the South African Communication Union (Sacu) and the Communication Workers Union (CWU).
They went to court last month after Telkom started offering staff voluntary exit packages.
This following the semi-parastatal’s announcement in January that 3,000 jobs were at risk.
Sacu’s Ashley Englund said in an affidavit offers to staff were made without having properly consulted the unions first.
But Judge Robert Lagrange said yesterday it was not Telkom, but the unions which were responsible for erecting the “stumbling block to consultations proceeding”.
“The alliance was not prepared to engage in discussions about the use and content of voluntary separation packages at such an early stage in the process,” Lagrange said in his judgment. “In the unions’ view … without having concluded discussions on the rationale for retrenching, it would be premature to discuss alternatives.
“Telkom contended that because of the significant impact that voluntary terminations could have on the ultimate need for any forced retrenchments, it made good sense to deal with this at the start of the process to reduce the scale of potential retrenchments.”
The judge found that “even though there may be rational arguments for delaying the offer of VSPs [voluntary severance packages], that does not mean a party should refuse to discuss them altogether unless its proposal on the timing of such offers is accepted”.
He said it was “regrettable” that the matter had found its way to the court. “With a bit of imagination and mutual commitment to engagement, despite their differences over VSPs, I believe the parties could have had a constructive engagement on the use, content and timing of VSPs, which might have resulted in a consensus.”
Lagrange did not make a costs order, saying this might “unnecessarily sour the already frayed relationship” between Telkom and the unions.
Telkom said yesterday: “Telkom is pleased with the affirmation from the court that it is conducting itself in the best interest of Telkom employees.”
Sacu and CWU had requested the Labour Court to direct Telkom to withdraw the offer for voluntary severance and early retirement.
The court dismissed the application.