Telecoms

MTN strike is over

Read time 2min 50sec
MTN and the CWU have agreed to engage internally about outstanding issues.
MTN and the CWU have agreed to engage internally about outstanding issues.

The two-month strike by the Communication Workers Union (CWU) at mobile operator MTN officially came to an end this morning, with both parties signing a settlement agreement and agreeing to engage internally about outstanding issues.

Essentially, the strike - which started on 20 May, when talks about pay increases and bonus payouts deadlocked between the CWU and MTN - yielded few results for the union, as the company this morning said it "conceded nothing".

Chief HR officer at MTN SA Themba Nyathi says, in terms of the settlement, the union has accepted the company's 4% bonus payout in December and another payment of 8.33% in March 2016 - the same deal MTN put on the table ahead of the strike.

Initially, the CWU demanded a 30% bonus payout around the time it went out on strike, before revising this to 16%, and now conceding to accept the original 12% offered by MTN.

It is also understood the CWU has backed down from its demand for a 10% annual salary increase, accepting the company's policy of performance-based pay hikes would remain in place.

Several outstanding issues, which MTN has refused to budge on, will be dealt with during internal discussions between the company and the union, says Nyathi. These are understood to include the CWU's demand that MTN waive the no work, no pay principle for employees who took part in the strike.

Lessons learnt

"MTN has not conceded anything, but the spirit of the agreement is that MTN and the union will work together going forward. Several lessons have been learnt, the main one being that nothing has come out of the strike, so we should rather be focused on talking and negotiating," he says.

"The main issue in the settlement is that the union and its members have now been invited to engage with us internally on outstanding matters."

Newly-appointed MTN SA CEO Mteto Nyati is believed to have provided the main thrust for the resolution of the strike, having vowed to find a solution to the standoff by the end of this week.

"He unlocked a lot of energy and instructed MTN to try and bring the union back on board. Basically, he made the company re-engage with the CWU with renewed vigour," says Nyathi.

The CWU had earlier welcomed the resignation of MTN SA chief executive Ahmad Farroukh, whose abrupt departure from the company was announced on 6 July, after less than a year in the position. MTN initially said Farroukh's move was "unavoidable due to personal and family reasons" and speculation was rife that the company's inability to put an end to the strike had played a significant role in his decision.

Meanwhile, the CWU said it was happy about Farroukh's departure, accusing the Lebanese former CEO of MTN Nigeria and MTN Ghana of being "arrogant" and not understanding local labour issues.

CWU officials were not immediately available to comment this morning, but the union and MTN are expected to issue official statements this afternoon.

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