by Desalegn Sisay
(Afrik) French telecommunications giant, France Telecom, and the Ethiopian government are involved in a dispute following a decision to cut 8,000 jobs at Ethio Telecom in a bid to restructure the state-owned company. Concerned over a number of irregularities, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi last week delegated a representative to find a solution to the issue.
In a bid to restructure and modernize the state run Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation (ETC), the country’s government, three months ago, outsourced the management of Ethiopia’s sole telecommunications entity to French telecommunications giant, France Telecom.
Soon after taking over the management of ETC, now rebranded as Ethio Telecom, France Telecom moved to cut over 8000 jobs in accordance with an agreement reached with the government before the signing of the two year management agreement.
This came after a pre-contract assessment made by France Telecom showed that ETC had an excess of over 12,000 staff as far as the new structure was concerned. And after discussions with the Ethiopian government, France Telecom was given the green light to downsize ETC personnel.
But a list containing 4,000 staff members selected to remain in the new structure has been rejected by a representation of the staff who claim that the selection exercise launched by the new management was not based on merits.
According to employees, a number of deceased ETC personnel alongside many who now live outside the country appear on the list provided by the new management.
Seeking redress, the affected employees complained to Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, who last week delegated his advisor and former mayor of Addis Ababa, Minister Arkebe Equbaye, to investigate the matter and find a solution.
But in spite of efforts made by Mr. Arkebe, including the removal of those responsible for the flawed staff selection, it is not certain if any of those affected by the mass lay off would be recalled.
Apart from its strong objection over the massive lay off exercise, ETC staff union has also raised concerns over the future of affected employees. But although the government shares the same sentiments, according to sources close to the Prime Minister’s office, no solution or response should be expected anytime soon.