TELKOM STRIKE may AFFECT PHONE LINES

TOOLS DOWN: Telkom workers will embark on a similar action to one in 2006 when they protest over pay today. Pic. Robert Botha. 27/03/2006. © Business Day.
TOOLS DOWN: Telkom workers will embark on a similar action to one in 2006 when they protest over pay today. Pic. Robert Botha. 27/03/2006. © Business Day.

GOVERNMENT departments, including hospitals and schools, businesses and the public are set to experience major disruptions of their landline phones and Internet access when Telkom workers down tools today.

Members of the Communication Workers' Union (CWU) are embarking on a two-day national strike that might worsen if the employer does not bow to its demands.

The union is demanding that Telkom move employees from lower to higher pay scales before implementing a 7,5percent wage increase.

Provinces that will be affected today are Gauteng, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

CWU general secretary Gallant Robert said while more than 4000 of the union's 9000 national membership will not be reporting for work today in the four provinces, members in other provinces would embark on a go-slow and picketing, and refused to work overtime.

"In the provinces where our members won't be reporting to work, major government departments will experience landlines and Internet problems, as well as the banks,".

"Big businesses who are our clients will also be severely affected.

"This means our members won't attend to calls to fix any faulty land-line phones or complaints about network connections," said Robert.

Business Unity of South Africa chief executive Jerry Vilakazi said strike action should be a real last resort when everything else has failed.

"During salary negotiations all parties should commit to resolving the negotiations through social dialogue," Robert said.

He urged Telkom and the union to reach an agreement "... in the interests of saving jobs and ensuring that business can continue to operate".

Vilakazi said a national strike with one day of work lost costs the economy half a billion rand.

"Any strike action and protracted underperformance of services by Telkom will have a direct negative effect on the economy across the country.

"So, it is important that a speedy resolution is reached so that we can go back to normal service."

"The majority of businesses in the country are dependent on Telkom infrastructure for their operation. For many years Telkom dominated the fixed line network."

Gauteng-based CWU members will picket outside the commission for conciliation, mediation and arbitration offices today while union leaders meet with Telkom management, Robert said.

Telkom was unavailable for comment.

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