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Court grants Blue Label interdict against labour union

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ICTU members and ADEC supporters outside Blue Label’s offices on Tuesday.
ICTU members and ADEC supporters outside Blue Label’s offices on Tuesday.

The Information Communication Technology Union (ICTU) and political party African Democratic Change (ADEC) have been interdicted from interrupting business operations at the Sandton offices of JSE-listed Blue Label Telecoms, following Tuesday’s demonstrations.

The ICTU, which represents 60% of staff at Cell C, together with ADEC, marched to Blue Label, the largest shareholder of Cell C, protesting job losses.

Blue Label responded by applying to the High Court for an urgent interdict, which was heard yesterday morning.

The application was successful and the court interdicted the ICTU and ADEC from breaking into Blue Label’s offices, damaging property, intimidating and threatening customers on the premises.

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.

In response, the ICTU says it is consulting with its advocate on the way forward.

The union has been battling with Cell C and Blue Label for several weeks, threatening to close all stores if the proposed retrenchments are 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, 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 during which it is focusing on operational efficiencies.

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, all in an effort to turn the business around.

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.

However, the ICTU believes the redundancies are not warranted and must be stopped.

The telco recently stated it incurred R33 billion in losses over the years.

However, a recapitalisation programme is on the cards to try rescue the business, with Blue Label promising the telco will be recapped this year as the key partners have made huge inroads in negotiating the funding deal.

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