Cell C to proceed with retrenchments after court victory

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Cell C’s retrenchments will now proceed as planned after the Johannesburg Labour Court threw out an interdict application by the Information Communication Technology Union (ICTU).

Buoyed by the court victory, Cell C says it is “within its rights to proceed with the implementation of its restructuring process”.

The ICTU filed an urgent application at the Johannesburg Labour Court at the beginning of this month, to stop Cell C from proceeding with its restructuring process.

The union also wanted the court to block the telco from further planning, or working on any plans that are “not officially disclosed to unions and workers involved in the CCMA process”.

Acting judge Sean Snyman, sitting at the Johannesburg Labour Court, dismissed the application, saying it lacked merit and the court was not satisfied that a case had been made.

Responding to the court ruling, Cell C says throughout the process, it has remained committed to “meaningful engagements within the parameters of the law, in order to have closure and certainty for all affected parties.

“The last CCMA-facilitated consultation meeting was held on 30 September 2020, marking the end of the prescribed 60-day consultation period. The company had already conceded to an extension of 30 days,” says Cell C.

“Having followed all due processes, Cell C is well within its rights to proceed with the implementation of its restructuring process. Cell C remains committed to be fully compliant with the laws applicable to the restructuring process.”

This is the second court loss for the majority labour union at Cell C.

On Wednesday, together with political party African Democratic Change (ADEC), it was interdicted from interrupting business operations at the Sandton offices of Blue Label Telecoms, following Tuesday’s demonstrations.

The ICTU represents 60% of staff at Cell C and has been protesting job losses at the mobile operator’s premises and that of its largest shareholder, Blue Label.

The two organisations were also interdicted from interrupting business operations at Blue Label and are required to ensure their members and supporters abide by these restraints.

The SA Police Service was also directed to take reasonable steps at the request of Blue Label to ensure both ICTU and ADEC, and anyone acting on their instructions, abide by the court order.

The union has been battling with Cell C and Blue Label for several weeks, threatening to close all stores if the proposed retrenchments were not halted.

The battle began when Cell C bosses announced thousands of redundancies, equalling up to 40% of the entire workforce, in June.

The union has been resisting the move to retrench people, while the company is pressing ahead with its plans, citing the need to right-size the business.

Cell C put in place a turnaround strategy in early 2019. To date, it says efforts to streamline the business have included cost savings through procurement cuts, a year-long hiring freeze, a review and discontinuation of certain product offerings.

According to Cell C, over time, the operating model resulted in several inefficiencies and there is a need to right-size the business and reduce the headcount to ensure the company is competitive and sustainable.

Furthermore, the debt-saddled mobile operator announced plans to close down 130 stores across the country as financial pressure continues to ravage the company.

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