A record 13 200 users affected after Telkom SA transmission lines sabotage

Telkom says approximately 13 200 customers were hit by outages caused by “sabotage” last week. The alleged sabotage happened as the Communication Workers Union (CWU) continues to strike for salary increases at the telecoms operator.

By Cisco Eng. Shingie Lev Muringi 

“A total of 85 street distribution cabinets (SDCs) have been damaged in the past five days. Many of these SDCs have either been fully repaired or are partially repaired. In areas where the work is still under way, the technicians are bringing streets back online as they complete the repairs,” according to Jacqui O’Sullivan, Telkom managing executive of communication.

She says Telkom’s teams will continue to work around the clock until the service to all the affected customers is restored, but believes the spike in incidents is related to industrial action by the CWU.

“While less than 870 CWU members were on strike on Friday [19 August], this thuggish behaviour has now had a significant impact on many residential andbusiness customers,” she says.

The CWU began a go-slow at Telkom on Monday, 1 August, and ramped up into a full-blown strike on 11 August. The CWU demands an 11% annual salary increase, a three-year moratorium on retrenchments, a better gain sharing scheme for workers, six months’ maternity leave, as well as a more transformed executive.

Telkom says it is strictly applying the “no work no pay” rule to all striking employees.

“Those who have been striking consistently since 1 August have been informed they will not be paid on the 25th of this month as a manual verification to check whether they actually worked any days in August is required. We will pay any days owing to them for August by 7 September 2016 in line with the requirements of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act,” O’Sullivan says.

She also says Telkom and the CWU are scheduled to meet today.

Facing prosecution

On 19 August, Telkom brought a contempt of court application against eight CWU members who defied an urgent interdict by the Labour Court. Telkom was granted the interdict on Monday, 15 August, and it prohibits the CWU and its members from blockading Telkom entrances and exits, intimidating working employees and damaging any Telkom facilities and equipment. Telkom is now seeking prosecution of those CWU members who defied the court order.

One protester was also arrested last week after allegedly throwing a brick at the car window of one of the non-striking employees at a Telkom facility in Randburg. On 18 August, a number of non-striking technicians in the Western Cape were also reportedly sent threatening texts in an attempt to get them to join the strike.

“These incidents are examples of ongoing acts of intimidation by the CWU and the spike in sabotage is related to this industrial action. These are not random acts of vandalism or incidents of cable theft. These people know where to go and what to do to wreak maximum damage. This is in-house,” says O’Sullivan.

Last week, Telkom announced a R500 000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the alleged saboteurs. This reward is available to any person either within Telkom or a member of the public with relevant information.

Performance Pays

The root of the CWU’s strike comes back to a collaborative partnership agreement Telkom signed with trade unions Solidarity and the South African Communications Union in June. The deal promised no forced retrenchments and limited outsourcing over the next two years. However, it also contained a stipulation that Telkom would not give any annual increases for staff this year, but committed to a 6% salary increase for all employees from 1 April 2017.

The CWU says it cannot accept a zero percent increase for its members. The union has also been reluctant to agree to changes Telkom made to its staff incentive remuneration scheme − introducing a new incentive plan called Performance Pays.

“We remain firm in our decision to implement an incentive programme that will reward employees each month for delivering superior customer service and improved productivity,” says O’Sullivan.

“Two of the three unions have agreed to this approach as they see customer service remains a central stumbling block in our business.”

She says Telkom is committed to fixing this and apologizes to customers for the inconvenience caused by the alleged sabotage and CWU strike.

Source: IT Web Africa

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