SLOVAK TELECOM'S plan to reduce its staff in line with market pressures might face more problems than the company imagines, say unions.
Slovak Telecom (ST), which enjoys a fixed-line monopoly in Slovakia, employed approximately 11,300 people at the end of 2001, and has announced plans to lower this number to 10,000 by the end of 2002. ST has said the decision was a reaction to the changing business environment and the impending loss of its monopoly status in 2003.
A 51 per cent stake in ST was bought by Deutsche Telecom in 2000, sparking a drive for greater labour efficiency at the firm, which employed over 15,000 workers in 1997, according to the Trend business weekly.
"The main goal for 2002 is to continue changes started in 2000 and 2001, which are needed to make Slovak Telecom an effective and customer-oriented company, fully prepared for a liberalised telecom market from the beginning of 2003," the company said in a prepared statement.
The company says it is providing a soft cushion for departing employees, offering them severance packages of "seven to seventeen times" the average monthly wage, as well as retraining to find new jobs.
"People have access to requalification courses worth up to Sk30,000 per person, they are taught skills needed for the labour market. They can also use our outplacement program, provided by a personnel agency," said ST.
The firm said its 'Employment ST' human resource project had helped the majority of the more than 1,000 people that left the company in the last year find new jobs.
However, unions say the situation is not as rosy as it looks.
"The money put into this project, the amount of working hours spent, the number of workers contributing - all of these inputs did not bring the expected results at all," said Milan Brlej, head of the telecom section at the Post and Telecom Unions group.
"Yes, employees in 'endangered' positions learned how to create a CV and so on, but in the last year, with the help of the personnel agency, only four people found a new job," said Brlej.
He added that it was not possible to estimate the exact number of employees that might leave the company this year.
"Given the current organisational changes in ST, it is very hard to speak about any concrete numbers. The company is going through constant organisational change. Employees are being transferred from one place to another, and a selection process is being performed.
"During this summer, some workers should be transferred from their positions, but this does not mean that all of them will remain in ST," he said.