Aubrey Tshabalala (centre). Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO
Aubrey Tshabalala (centre). Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) has lashed out at the ANC, characterising the governing party as a “pig that eats its own children”, for its silence over Telkom’s plans to cut up to a fifth of its workforce.

CWU general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala said they wrote to ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule about a week ago asking for an audience with him after the fixed-line operator told unions that about 3,000 jobs were on the line. The retrenchments   are a result of changing consumer behaviour and SA’s weak economy.

In a media briefing in Johannesburg on Wednesday, following a meeting with the employer, Tshabalala disputed the figure, saying up to 6,000 jobs could be affected at the company’s subsidiaries including Trudon, Startrack, Smollan, Perx and BCX.

When the news about the retrenchments broke, Tshabalala said they wrote to communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams and Magashule for their intervention, but to no avail.

The state, through the Public Investment Corporation, holds a 51% stake in Telkom, he said.

“The ANC ... are all quiet about this matter. They have not responded to our letters. Any political party that claims to [represent] the interest of workers would have said [by now]. They have not,” said Tshabalala.

He said the politicians’ inaction over the matter presented an opportunity for workers to ask themselves difficult questions when going to elections about whether they are not “voting for a pig that eats its own children”.

CWU president Clyde Mervin said they are going to call on their members countrywide to march to the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters in a bid to stop the planned job cuts. He said they would not allow 6,000 more people to join the ranks of the unemployed.

Mervin said they would talk to other unions representing Telkom workers, including  the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and the Information Communication and Technology Union (ICTU).

“We want to come up with a clear course of action. We will be making a call for [Telkom CEO Sipho] Maseko and his board to exit Telkom,” said Mervin.

In November 2019, Telkom announced that its group operating revenue increase 4.7% to R21.5bn, during its half year to end-September, largely due to growth in mobile service revenue — which rose 56.6% to R5.6bn as subscriber numbers surged 75.5% to 11.5-million. Fixed-voice and interconnection revenue had fallen 19.1%, Telkom said at the time.

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe and  Ndabeni-Abrahams could not immediately be reached for an update.

 Ndabeni-Abrahams has said she “noted [the plans] with concern” and scheduled an urgent meeting with Telkom’s senior executives last Friday, which her department says “went well”. 

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za