Telcos in Chaina and Germany face union problems

Executive members of the state-run Chunghwa Telecom Co. Workers' Union have charged that telco's management of ongoing "inhumane" worker layoffs aimed at cutting costs. At the same time in Europe a German labor union sanctioned brief walkouts in protest of plans by Deutsche Telekom to institute longer hours and lower pay for thousands of workers.

In China, protesters demanded that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC), which holds a 36-percent stake in Chunghwa, should replace its designated chairman, Ho Chen-tan. Workers claim Ho has resorted to "inhumane" means "of all kinds" since 2006 to lay off workers in order to "please" foreign investors. If Ho is not replaced, the union threatens to mobilize 5,000 workers to protest at the ministry headquarters May 1.
According to the workers union, some 1,600 workers were scheduled to be pink-slipped this month, with Chunghwa Telecom Workers' Union Secretary-General Chuang Ping-tang saying the carrier has a "layoff quota" that includes forcing "targeted" workers to quit by changing work schedules and duties with no prior notice. Apparently, anxiety is so high among Chunghwa workers that one generator-room technician committed suicide last year.
Chinese legislators have criticized highly profitable carrier ($1.2 billion last year) for violation of an agreement it signed with the workers' union in 2005 when it began the process of privatization. That agreement stipulated that no workers were to be laid off during the first five years of privatization.

In Europe, some 1,000 call-center representatives and technical-service members of Germany's ver.di service workers' union, located at six Deutsche Telekom sites, staged brief "warning strikes" lasting for one shift in protest of the incumbent's proposed plan to transfer as many as 50,000 staffers to a new service unit, called T-Service. (Apparently, these targeted mini-strikes are used by German unions to show they mean business while not disrupting business too much.) Workers claim the carrier plans to amend workers' labor contracts to secure more hours at less pay.
Last month, Deutsche Telekom announced that, effective July 1, its call-center activities, technical customer service and operative units would be "integrated in three units." In the collective bargaining, which is beginning now, Deutsche Telekom is seeking to negotiate service-oriented employment conditions with ver.di and a payment structure that is in line with the market. In return, Deutsche Telekom has signaled its willingness to make an early extension to the agreement to avoid compulsory redundancies, which expires on Dec. 31, 2008.
As such, the carrier wants to increase the work week from 34 hours to at least 38 hours. Gradually, and in a socially considerate manner, pay levels are also to be moved closer to the market level.

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