With only 100 days left before the largest sporting event is hosted in South Africa, Telkom will urgently have to tackle its labour relations problems in order to ensure that the Soccer World Cup goes off without a hitch, the trade union Solidarity warns.

Employees of all three trade unions in Telkom’s largest single unit, Data Advance Services (DAS), are unhappy about salary discrepancies between them and employees of the company’s Merlot project, a unit responsible for the telecommunications company’s largest contracts. DAS employees are not only demanding that they be remunerated at the same level as Merlot employees, but also that the payment be implemented two years retrospectively.
Employees of the DAS unit in Telkom are dissatisfied because they are occasionally expected to provide services to the so-called Merlot clients, without being compensated for the services.
“The Merlot project is the largest contract in Telkom, worth several billion rands, and Telkom is responsible for maintaining the centralised network on the project. South Africa’s largest companies, including, among others, Absa and Nedbank, are clients of this project," says Solidarity spokesman Jaco Kleynhans.
"The Merlot project was established nearly two years ago and a handful of employees were chosen to work on the project. However, employees of the project earn much better salaries than most employees in the DAS unit. In addition, employees of the project also receive a monthly retention bonus of R3 500.00. Employees in the DAS unit are now demanding similar remuneration.
“Following several meetings with management about the matter, an agreement could not yet be reached and employees of all three trade unions in Telkom are now willing to take the matter further,” Kleynhans says.
At a meeting held with DAS employees in Johannesburg on Monday, management proposed that the problem be investigated. The company is also maintaining that the issue should be tackled in phases. However, employees were not in favour of this.
Meanwhile management has indicated that it has been determined which employees in DAS Gauteng qualify for adjusted remuneration. “However, the approval of the executive director of the DAS unit still has to be obtained before the decision can be finalised,” Kleynhans says.
Employees maintain that management are delaying the process unnecessarily. Employees now want to take up the matter urgently with the CEO of Telkom, Reuben September, in Pretoria so they can present their demands to him.
The DAS unit in Telkom is responsible for, among other things, the maintenance of companies’ switchboards as well as for the maintenance of data transmission lines.
“If Telkom does not take urgent steps to resolve the issue, service delivery to several large companies as well as service delivery that is essential for the success of the Soccer World Cup will be in jeopardy,” Kleynhans says.
If the matter is not resolved, a dispute will be referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).