MTN, CWU continue court battle over store sell-off plan

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The battle of employment and transformation between MTN SA and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) continues to play out in the labour court in Johannesburg, with the labour body launching a new application to stop the company from selling some of its stores.

Initially, the CWU lodged a court application two months ago in a bid to prevent MTN from proceeding with a transformation project, which will see the telco selling off some of its branded stores.

The court ruled against the CWU earlier this month.

The court ruled in favour of MTN saying: “There is no general right to consultation or to information in a Section 197 process. Section 197 (6) specifically provides for negotiation to conclude an agreement, should the parties elect to do so, and for the disclosure of information that would allow parties to engage effectively in negotiations.”

The union wants the court to compel MTN to engage with it before implementing the “transformation plan” and has now filed a leave to appeal application, saying another court will come to a different conclusion.

Last year, ITWeb reported that the mobile operator’s employees had expressed fears that the move to sell off MTN stores (Branded Channel) will result in them losing their jobs.

The employees also claimed MTN’s plan was to “dupe them into joblessness without proper consultations” with the workers at these facilities.

Employees, through their union, have expressed fear of job losses as a result of MTN’s plan.

CWU secretary-general Aubrey Tshabalala rejected the court’s position, saying: “We think the court erred. The judgement says a company does not need to consult on transfer or to sell a business. Furthermore, MTN wants to undermine the section 197 of the LRA by transferring workers with less benefits and the court sees no wrong with it.”

On its part, MTN has denied wrongdoing and is opposing the leave to appeal application by the CWU.

It says the submission that the “organisational rights are a legitimate collective bargaining topic in terms of section 197(6) of the Labour Relations Act” by the CWU, lacks sufficient particularity “to the extent that it is vague and embarrassing and as such, is of no assistance to this honourable court”.

MTN adds: “The applicant mistook the respondent’s courteous engagements with it as an actual right in law that it had to be consulted with. This was argued in court and the applicant failed to demonstrate how those initial engagement and meetings amounted to a legal obligation on the part of the respondent to continue consulting with it.”

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