MTN braces for possible sympathy strike
The deadlock at telecommunications company MTN is set to worsen this week. The company plans a damages claim against the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) and, in turn, the union is planning sympathy strikes to help turn the screws.
According to MTN HR head Themba Nyathi, the company is considering a damage claim related to the controversial Gatherings Act – an apartheid-era crowd-control law that has previously been used by the City of Cape Town against transport union Satawu.
The CWU announced on Friday that it was appealing to members at companies doing business with MTN to join a secondary strike tomorrow, and the union was meeting with “allies” today to plot ways to boycott MTN.
The cellular behemoth disputes CWU’s membership claims and has consistently challenged its claims about the efficacy of the strike in affecting MTN operations.
Nyathi also claims that the CWU completely misunderstands the company’s bonus system.
The strike started on May 20, but workers at some MTN warehouses have been striking since March. The demand is for a 10% increase in wages and a 16% ex gratia bonus.
MTN does not recognise any unions and portrays its willingness to talk to CWU as a more or less magnanimous gesture.
MTN has about 6 500 workers, but 700 of them are outsourced.
Of the remaining 5 700 “real” employees, the CWU represents about 900, according to Nyathi.
That’s similar to the union membership at rival Vodacom’s local operations, where the CWU has 700 of the 4 700 employees as members.