MTN braces for pos­si­ble sym­pa­thy strike

CityPress - - Business - – De­wald van Rens­burg

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.

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