Cell C yesterday threatened to sue the Information Communication and Technology Union (ICTU), which represents close to 1 300 striking workers in the mobile phone company.

The mobile phone operator, which as loggerheads with the union, also threatened to dismiss employees engaged in an ‘unprotected strike’.

The strike action by ICTU which commenced yesterday is over a dispute between Cell C and the union regarding the non-payment of 2017/18 outstanding performance bonuses.

The ICTU – an affiliate of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) led by Zwelinzima Vavi – has been served by Cell C with a notice of intention to impose final written warnings for workers participation in unprotected strike action on April 10 and April 29.

In the notice, Cell C said it has decided not to proceed with the disciplinary inquiry scheduled for 6 May 2019 in its current format.

“A large number of employees face disciplinary action for their participation in the unprotected strike action and blockading on 10 April 2019 in circumstances where there appears to be an endeavour by the union to have the ‘law of the jungle’ prevail,” said the notice.

The company further states that ICTU has engaged in “deliberate delaying tactics”, with the clear intention of frustrating the disciplinary process.

“This has caused significant disruption to Cell C’s business (in this regard Cell C reserves the right to sue ICTU for damages),” warns Cell C in the notice.

Instead of conducting the hearings, Cell C has offered the affected workers an opportunity to make representations in writing.

The union has been given until 6 May 2019 at 1 pm to make submissions.

Cell C also offered an olive branch to the workers represented by the union. 

“If the offer is accepted, a single final written warning (valid for 12 months) will be imposed on all employees that participated in either or both of the unprotected strike actions, and the matter will be regarded as closed,” Cell C said in the notice.

“Should the union refuse this offer, it may result in employees receiving two final written warnings or being dismissed if the circumstances warrant it.”

ICTU Deputy President Origenous Mogoatlhe said the union was unfazed by Cell C’s notice, which suggests workers can interact with the company in writing on the matter.

“What is it that they fear to meet and engage with their employees?” asked Mogoatlhe.

“Why are they insisting on talking to employees via attorneys? How incapacitated is the ER/HR that they can’t deal with internal issues? Why is the chief of legal, Graham Mackinnon not willing to meet with the Union but is acting behind closed doors?”

Mogoatlhe claimed Cell C had engaged an external chairperson to deal with internal matters. He said the mass disciplinary action was initiated by an advocate.

“What is the function of ER and HR Executives because millions are spent to pay these external parties,” Mogoatlhe asked.

“These are reasons that show these top management in Cell C have no interest in the business but are driven by a desire to protect their interest which is very suspect. 

“All that ICTU Advocates for is a well-oiled machine called Cell C which we know has potential and competent operational staff that can take it to higher heights.” – lourie@techfinancials.co.za

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