Cell C workers affiliated to the Information Communication and Technology Union (ICTU) will embark on a full-blown strike from tomorrow in all nine provinces, the union said on Sunday.
“For us, this is a fight we are not prepared to lose because we are waging it against stubborn management that has no interest to the worker’s needs,” Origenous Mogoatlhe, ICTU Deputy President, told TechFinancials.
ICTU is an affiliate of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), which is led by Zwelinzima Vavi.
The union represents close to 1,300 members at Cell C.
In February, Cell C workers led by ICTU engaged in a strike at the company’s head office regarding non-payment of bonuses related to 2017/18 performance.
The latest strike is related to Cell C’s failure to pay the 2017/18 bonuses.
“The issue is that they did not honour the agreement that lead to the suspension of the strike (which happened in February),” explains Mogoatlhe.
Last August, Cell C workers were initially informed that they will not be paid any bonuses because the mobile phone operator had not met its EBITDA 2017 targets. But workers discovered that the company had paid three executives – led by Cell C CEO Jose Dos Santos – a staggering R219 million.
Under pressure, the company relented and promised to pay ordinary workers bonuses. However, it has failed to do so.
As a result of non-payment of their due bonuses, ICTU on Friday issued a notice of intention to commence a strike within 48 hours.
ICTU sent a letter to Cell C’s chief human resources officer (CHO) Juliet Mhango informing her of the union’s intention to resume with the protected strike action, given the failure by the company to honour the agreement that led to the suspension of the strike for bonuses.
The strike action was acknowledged by Cell C’s HR boss Mhango, stating in a letter seen by TechFinancials, that: “I hereby acknowledge receipt and your letter is duly noted.”
The union claim that Cell C instead of engaging with them to iron out the issues they send lawyers to deal with them.
“This is a waste of money,” Mogoatlhe told TechFinancials.
“They can threaten all they can with their millions paid to the advocates. We will soldier on with the workforce to be treated with respect and dignity.
“Cell C, ICTU is on you, to rid you of these top management that has no interest whatsoever about the growth and well being of Cell C and its employees.”
ICTU members have been suspended at Cell C for delivering a memorandum to management demanding that the Mhango sign the collective agreement.
A collective agreement is a written agreement concerning terms and conditions of employment, or any other matter of mutual interest, concluded by one or more registered trade unions.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that even workers who are not members of ICTU and were not delivering a memorandum were suspended also.
TechFinancials was reliably informed on Saturday by sources that acting CEO, Douglas Craigie Stevenson wanted all the suspensions lifted and employees back at work, where they would be issued a verbal warning.
But the acting boss’s move was curtailed, according to sources, by Graham Mackinonn, Cell C‘s chief of legal, who insisted that HR process (mass hearings) should be completed.
“This is clear insubordination that goes unchallenged,” said the source.
Asked to comment about this, Mogoatlhe, said:
“They are on a rampant trail of dismissing employees with no representation allowed, no evidence provided … just pure disregard of the law.”
The Union Says It Wants A Thriving And ‘Corruption Free’ Cell C
Last week, ICTU told TechFinancials that it wants to see a “stable, thriving and corruption free Cell C” company.
“We are for cleaning up Cell C for it to be a profitable company, and for workers to enjoy their 8 hours at work,” Mogoatlhe explained.
The union also delivered a memorandum to one of Cell C shareholders with 45% stake, Blue Label Telecoms.
The shareholder informed workers that it supports workers’ rights.
Last week Nicola White, Blue Label’s head of investor and media relations told TechFinancials that her firm was, “aware of the current industrial action at Cell C and supports workers’ rights to air their grievances. We trust that both parties will handle the matter in terms of the provisions of the Labour Relations Act,”