South Africa's MultiChoice looks to lay off more than 2,000 workers

South African pay-television firm MultiChoice Group is planning to lay off more than 2,000 workers in South Africa in a shake-up of its customer care service, the company said on Friday.

MultiChoice, which competes with Netflix in online streaming via Showmax, said in a statement it is launching a consultation process to cut 2,194 positions in MultiChoice South Africa’s customer care call centres and walk-in centres.

“This has not been an easy decision to make but, in a business driven by advancing technologies, we must continue to drive efficiencies yet be agile enough to adapt to evolving customer needs,” MultiChoice Group Chief Executive Calvo Mawela said.

“We must act decisively to align to the change in customer behaviour and competition from over-the-top services,” he added, referring to video services that stream directly over the internet. “If we don’t reposition now, we run the risk of being completely misaligned and we put everyone’s jobs at risk.”

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Under the Labour Relations Act, the consultation process will take 60 days.

Over the past three years, MultiChoice has seen a steady decline in the number of customer telephone calls and e-mails into its call centres and walk-ins to its customer service centres, the company said. In contrast, self-service digital channels have continued to grow, now accounting for 70 per cent of all its customer service contacts.

“The company is also in an environment where it will rely more on technology than people,” it said. The firm said it will make new roles available for multi-skilled workers with the “expertise, skills and technological prowess to enhance the customer experience”.

The firm will offer voluntary severance packages, wellness support and financial planning, it said. It will also continue paying for studies of MultiChoice bursary-funded staff among other benefits.

However the Information Communication and Technology Union said it had not been officially informed of the action.

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