South Africa: Telkom strike and sabotage update

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Telkom Recruitment scam
Telkom tower (Image Credit: Darryl Linington)
Telkom Recruitment scam
Telkom tower (Image Credit: Darryl Linington)

According to South Africa telecommunications giant Telkom, by 19 August 2016 approximately 13 200 Telkom customers had been hit by outages caused by sabotage. This happened as the Communication Workers Union strike against Telkom moved into its fourth week.

“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 underway, the technicians are bringing streets back online as they complete the repairs. Our teams will continue to work around the clock until the service to all the affected customers is restored,” said Jacqui O’Sullivan, Telkom Managing Executive of Communication.

“While less than 870 CWU members were on strike on Friday this thuggish behaviour has now had a significant impact on many residential and business customers.” O’Sullivan added.

Contempt of Court application
According to the company, on Friday morning it brought a Contempt of Court application against eight CWU members who defied Monday’s urgent interdict by the Labour Court. The interdict prohibits the CWU and its members from blockading Telkom entrances and exits, intimidating working employees and damaging any Telkom facilities and equipment. Telkom is seeking prosecution of those CWU members who defied the court order.

Violence and intimidation
Last week, a CWU protester threw a brick at the car window of one of the non-striking employees as the employee was leaving a Telkom facility in Randburg. The protester was arrested. On Thursday in the Western Cape, a number of non-striking technicians were 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,” said O’Sullivan.

“No Work No Pay” implemented
According to the company, Telkom 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.

Telkom apology to customers
“We would like to apologise to all our customers for the inconvenience caused by this sabotage. 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,” she said.

“Two of the three unions have agreed to this approach as they see customer service remains a central stumbling block in our business. We are committed to fixing this and we apologise that some of our customers have been affected by the CWU strike”, O’Sullivan said.

Reward of R500 000
Last week, Telkom announced a R500 000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the saboteurs. This reward is available to any person either within Telkom or a member of the public with relevant information. Telkom has asked that any person with information related to these crimes contact the Telkom crime reporting line on 0800 124 000.

Tough sentences likely in line with new Criminal Matters Amendment Act
Earlier this year, Telkom secured an important legal victory in the form of a significant sentence for a copper cable thief.

The Boksburg Magistrate Court sentenced Mr Paul Mathonsi (AKA Mr Sambol Sambane Nyalunga) to 106 years in jail for his role in a copper cable theft syndicate. The Criminal Matters Amendment Act was introduced in May this year and allows for harsher sentencing and bail conditions for people who are found to have purposefully damaged infrastructure.

“Copper cable theft and the damage to infrastructure is costing Telkom, along with many other companies, millions of Rands each year in repairs, lost working hours and lost customers. We are encouraged that the Magistrate recognised this impact by handing down such a heavy sentence,” O’Sullivan said.

The 106 year concurrent sentence was handed down as an effective 25 years.

Staff Writer