MTN SA, Solidarity clash over retrenchments
MTN has lambasted Solidarity, accusing the labour union of purposefully choosing an alarmist narrative on the issue of retrenchments the telco is undertaking.
The operator confirmed today it is implementing the Section 189a process in its finance department, adding that impacted people will be required to apply for new or changed roles.
Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act permits employers to dismiss employees for operational requirements, according to lawyers, who say there are defined requirements in terms of the Act, such as economic, technological, structural or similar needs of the employer.
Earlier today, Solidarity strongly condemned MTN’s plans “to start a retrenchment process”, accusing MTN's management of “acting callously and immorally” by announcing retrenchments, while the company’s financial figures indicate a huge success.
Solidarity has alleged the retrenchments are motivated by MTN’s intended takeover of Telkom.
MTN has denied the allegations, with Jacqui O’Sullivan, MTN SA executive of corporate affairs, saying Solidarity is seeking “to create an entirely false link” between one project that has been running for two years, and the potential acquisition of Telkom.
She explains: “Last week, employees in MTN’s finance department were formally notified of the transformation process through the Section 189a process. The communication serves to legally inform employees that a transformation process is under way that may have an impact on some roles. A total of 173 impacted people will be required to apply for the 205 new or changed roles. Some roles will be outsourced.
“It is important to note this people transformation journey has been under way for two years. It is disappointing that Solidarity has chosen to adopt an untrue and purposefully alarmist narrative, that seeks to create an entirely false link between a project that has been running for two years, with a potential acquisition [of Telkom] that is in the most embryonic of stages.”
However, Linda Senekal, network coordinator for Solidarity, states: “MTN’s behaviour towards its employees is immoral, and in times when inflation and fuel prices are skyrocketing, and even people who are lucky enough to have a job are struggling to keep their heads above water, the company is playing with people’s lives.
“To dismiss such a significant number of your labour force despite billions in profits that even exceeded the company’s own expectations paints a glaring picture of South African society and the role large companies like MTN play in it.
“What MTN is trying to do with its employees is actually illegal. If MTN foresees that there will be a duplication of roles if it were to buy Telkom, then it must deal with it in terms of the prescribed Section 197 process. MTN cannot hide behind the appearance of a normal retrenchment process,” says Senekal.
“The lives of employees and their dependents are at stake, but MTN’s management does not comprehend this.
“There is no chance that our members at MTN will be left to their fate when even employed South Africans are becoming impoverished on a daily basis. It will be fatal for these employees if MTN’s retrenchments continue unchallenged.
“MTN should know better, and it should adhere to existing regulations while considering the well-being of its employees. MTN must not disregard this and try to cover it up by telling its employees that a meaningful consensus will be reached while the retrenchment process has already been set in motion.”
Solidarity is the second union after the Commercial Workers Union (CWU), to raise the issue in the past three weeks.
The CWU is even mooting plans to approach anti-trust authorities to block MTN’s bid to take control of Telkom.
CWU general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala told ITWeb two weeks ago: “The slaughtering and ambushing of workers has commenced even before a deal is finalised. In a rather odd than usual manner of engagement with the union, MTN approached the CCMA for the initiation of Section 189 (retrenchments) in the financial department. Simultaneously, Telkom has invited the union into a virtual meeting to discuss Section 197 (transfer of business) at the Openserve business unit into a separate legal entity.
“In our view, this is to avoid and/or navigate legal challenges that might arise in the process. The bottom line on both processes/companies will result in massive job losses with fat pockets for few individuals. However, the union is aware this is just the beginning; if nothing is done, the floodgates will be opened for workers to be displaced.”