Solidarity, MTN in war of words over restructuring

MTN South Africa plans to restructure its finance division, with possible layoffs to follow, a move that has been severely criticised by trade union Solidarity.

Solidarity described it as “callous” and “immoral” given the group’s recent financial performance.

The telecommunications operator confirmed to TechCentral on Friday that employees in its finance department were notified formally last week of a “transformation process” to be conducted under section 189(a) of the Labour Relations Act.

“The communication serves to legally inform employees that a transformation process is under way that may have an impact on some roles. A total of 173 impacted people will be required to apply for the 205 new or changed roles. Some roles will be outsourced.”

Solidarity slammed the development, saying it would lead to significant jobs cuts. This prompted a strongly worded response from MTN.

“MTN’s behaviour towards its employees is immoral, and in times when inflation and fuel prices are skyrocketing, and even people who are lucky enough to have a job are struggling to keep their heads above water, the company is playing with people’s lives,” Solidarity said in a statement.

“Solidarity further believes it is difficult to see these retrenchments through a lens other than one coloured by MTN’s intended takeover of Telkom.

“What MTN is trying to do with its employees is actually illegal. If MTN foresees that there will be a duplication of roles if it were to buy Telkom, then it must deal with it in terms of the prescribed section 197 process. MTN cannot hide behind the appearance of a normal retrenchment process,” the union said. “The lives of employees and their dependents are at stake, but MTN’s management does not comprehend this.”

MTN hits back

But MTN has hit back. In a statement e-mailed to TechCentral, it said: “It is important to note that this people transformation journey has been under way for two years. It is disappointing that Solidarity has chosen to adopt an untrue and purposefully alarmist narrative, that seeks to create an entirely false link between a project that has been running for two years, with a potential acquisition (of Telkom) that is in the most embryonic of stages.”

The operator said the “transformation journey” is aimed at ensuring “the business and its people can evolve and thrive in the rapidly changing industries of telecoms and technology”.

“The MTN transformation focuses on shaping an organisation and talent base that is fit for the future, with a focus on creating new jobs and new capabilities, and refreshing skills for the future. To this end, MTN is creating more than 450 new jobs in the digital, technology, fintech, wholesale and enterprise spaces. The reshaping of certain departments is requiring some employees to apply for revised or new roles.

“Our people are the backbone of our business and, in this current tough economic climate, retrenchments will remain a very last resort. Our focus will be on reskilling, upskilling, deployment into other areas of MTN Group, as well as possible external business partnering. This sort of callous fear mongering [by Solidarity] is insensitive and unfair to a process that seeks to build for the future in an inclusive and innovative manner.”  — © 2022 NewsCentral Media