Legal View

MTN, employees face off on store selloff, permanent positions

Read time 2min 50sec

MTN employees have made an emotional public plea to their employer to reconsider the decision to sell off its stores, while MTN has reiterated that the store transformation is not about reducing stores or reducing jobs.

Earlier this month, ITWeb reported that MTN planned to sell-off its stores (Branded Channel) before the festive season, and employees expressed fears the move will result in them losing their jobs.

The employees alleged the mobile operator was looking to “dupe them into joblessness without proper consultations”.

With 1 September set as the date to begin consultations fast approaching, the employees are now in panic mode.

This week, the employees released an open letter detailing what they deem as “underhanded tactics” being used by MTN, soliciting intervention to halt the process.

The frustrated employees are also accusing the mobile operator of ignoring court orders, claiming that in retaliation, the company is punishing them for seeking intervention from the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

The letter claims some employees have been working at MTN’s flagship stores for more than 10 years as temporary staff.

To read the open letter, click here.

MTN has rejected these claims, calling them “simply untrue”.

The employees accuse MTN of deliberately ignoring the CCMA 2016 directive that all people that had worked for the company for a certain period as temporary employees must be made permanent.

According to the Labour Relations Amendment Act that came into operation on 1 January 2015, employment in terms of a fixed-term contract for longer than three months will be deemed to become permanent employment – with some exceptions.

It says an employer cannot circumvent this provision by using successive fixed-term contracts limited to three months each. It is not the current contract period, but the total period of employment, that must not exceed three months, the Act says.

The workers are hopeful MTN will reconsider its plan, which is expected to get under way next week.

MTN SA executive for corporate affairs Jacqui O’Sullivan says: “It is disappointing that there is an attempt to link the store transformation with the process of converting temporary employees to permanent status.”

She adds: “These are completely separate activities, with the process of making temporary employees permanent, having been set in motion a number of years ago as a consequence of change in national legislation. There are also claims that the store transformation is a way to ‘fool’ employees into retrenchment. These claims are simply untrue, and we reject them.”

To read MTN’s response, click here.

Commenting on the matter, labour union Communication Workers Union secretary general Aubrey Tshabalala tells ITWeb: “The recent case of 11 workers is a demonstration on how the employer plays a divide and rule tactic.

“It’s alarming that an organisation that is led by the self-proclaimed progressive individual like Godfrey Motsa [MTN SA CEO] has the most regressive approach on workers, in particular those who come from the previously disadvantaged background.”

To read the union’s response, click here.

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