Telkom subsidiary CEB Maintenance, union in talks as strike continues
Kimberley - The countrywide IT worker strike which started on Wednesday turned nasty as CEB Maintenance Africa, a subsidiary of Telkom through Business Connection, invoked the lockout clause on Thursday morning.
While several retail stores which are CEB Maintenance Africa clients were severely affected, striking workers were prevented access to company headquarters in Kramerville.
As the protected strike drew closer, the company communicated a strongly-worded letter to workers via its lawyers Snyman Attorneys.
"Our client will not have any further meetings or consultations with you (the union) on this matter (as) there is no point to it.
"If your members wish to strike, so be it, our clients' rights are reserved," stated the letter.
However, the company dramatically changed its tune and invited representatives of the Media Workers Association of South Africa (Mwasa) to an urgent meeting to try and resolve the impasse.
The meeting started at 11:00 and has not yet ended.
Several IT technicians and general workers providing services to retail stores such as Shoprite, the Edcon group and Woolworths are on strike in areas which include Cape Town, Durban, Nelspruit, Bloenfontein and Johannesburg.
The strike relates to a R2,6m per month Spar contract the company lost recently.
This amount accounts for 12% of company profits and put the jobs of 120 employees on the line.
After much fanfare, the company started retrenching and dismissing 30 employees citing "changes in operational requirements", according to CEO Desmond Poulter.
Workers refute CEB Maintenance Africa's claims that employment equity and skills development plans are in place, as required by the Department of Labour.
On condition of anonymity as they fear reprisals, workers have stated that racism and job reservation - including executives occupying more than one post - is prevalent at the company.
"We've seen a slight decrease in productivity today, but this is being managed directly so that customers are not inconvenienced," said Poulter.
"Retrenchment is not an easy decision - we are consulting with the union to resolve the issue," he said, referring to the sudden conciliatory tone which led CEB Maintenance Africa back to talks despite its earlier "racial arrogance informed by capitalist greed", according to an affected worker who did not wish to be named.
"We do not know what made the company change its mind, but we welcome this development. Well, the lockout notice effectively led to a shutdown as the company forced workers not to provide services," said Mwasa general secretary Tuwani Gumani.
As the parties remain locked in their meeting, the strike continues.