Cell C on Tuesday suffered another blow when the Labour Court in Johannesburg ruled that its application to interdict members of the Information Communications and Technology Union (ICTU) from striking was not urgent.
The nationwide strike by Cell C workers protesting imminent retrenchments started on Monday.
ICTU had informed Cell C in advance that its members would be embarking on industrial action from Monday at all Cell C buildings and shops in protest against the retrenchment of more than 1,600 employees.
The strike comes after the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), and African Democratic Change (ADEC) party unsuccessfully intervened in the matter.
ICTU is an affiliate of Saftu, which is led by union firebrand Zwelinzima Vavi and represents about 800,000 workers through its 21 affiliated trade unions. ICTU is the sole worker representative at Cell C.
On Tuesday, ICTU told TechFinancials that it welcomed the Labour Court’s decision to dismiss Cell C’s application to stop the strike.
Cell C unsuccessfully asked the court to interdict ICTU from going ahead with what it said was an “unlawful strike”.
“In terms of s189A of the Labour Relation Act, No 66 of 1995 (“LRA”), the respondents (ICTU) cannot embark on a strike in support of a demand not to retrench employees until the applicant (Cell C) has issued termination notices,” said the embattled cellphone company in court papers.
“No termination notice has been issued yet. Consequently, the strike is premature and therefore, unlawful.”
Cell C further stated that it will suffer losses of more than R4 million in turnover for every day the strike continues.
The company is already under financial distress and has generated losses of R33 billion over the years, including a loss of R4.2 billion in 2019.
“The applicant (Cell C) will not be able to recoup the damages it will suffer in due course,” court papers indicate.
“Even more critical, the proceeding of the unlawful strike may or will further compromise the financial position of the applicant (Cell C), which may lead to further potential job losses.
“It is submitted that the applicant cannot be afforded substantial redress at a hearing in due course.”
However, the court disagreed and ruled against Cell C.
Origenous Mogoatlhe, ICTU deputy president, on Tuesday, told TechFinancials that the union was acting within parameters of the law.
“Cell C is attempting all sorts of tactics to try and make it seem they are within the law,” said Mogoatlhe.
“They violated the Section 189 process by having their lawyers log into the zoom meeting facilitated by the CCMA.
“We will not rest until we uproot the corruption that is happening in Cell C. There are no shortcuts to justice, they must face up and own up … workers can’t be retrenched when it’s not their fault, management must take accountability.” – firstname.lastname@example.org