Johannesburg - Telkom [JSE:TKG] will urgently have to tackle its labour relations problems to ensure that the Soccer World Cup goes off without a hitch, trade union Solidarity said on Tuesday.
The trade union said that with only 100 days left to kick-off, the sporting event's success was "on a knife's edge" due to Telkom employees' dissatisfaction.
"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," Solidarity said in a statement.
It said DAS employees were not only demanding that they be remunerated at the same level as Merlot employees, but 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."
Solidarity said the Merlot project was the largest contract in Telkom, worth several billion rands, and Telkom was 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.
"The Merlot project was established nearly two years ago and a handful of employees were chosen to work on the project."
Demanding similar remuneration
The trade union said, however, that employees of the project earned 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."
Solidarity said employees in the DAS unit were demanding similar remuneration.
Solidarity spokesperson Jaco Kleynhans said that following several meetings with management about the matter, an agreement had not yet been reached.
"Employees of all three trade unions in Telkom are now willing to take the matter further," he said.
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," Kleynhans said.
Meanwhile, management had indicated that it had been determined which employees in DAS Gauteng qualified for adjusted remuneration.
World cup preparations on track
"However, the approval of the executive director of the DAS unit still has to be obtained before the decision can be finalised," Kleynhans said.
Employees maintained that management was delaying the process unnecessarily.
"Employees now want to take up the matter urgently with the CEO of Telkom, Reuben September, in Pretoria so that they can present their demands to him," he said.
The DAS unit in Telkom is responsible for, among other things, the maintenance of companies' switchboards and 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 warned.
Solidarity said that if the situation was not resolved, a dispute will be referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.
Reacting to the statement, Telkom senior specialist of media liaison Ajith Bridgraj said Telkom's preparations for the 2010 World Cup remained firmly on track. "The company has already delivered a flawless Confederations Cup and is ready to do the same for the World Cup in June," he said.