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Telkom subsidiary CEB 'dividing strikers along union lines'

May 22 2017 13:59
Ntozakhe Mthukwane, News24 Correspondent

Kimberley - A bitter intra-class battle is brewing among the ranks of striking workers and their unions, allegedly fuelled by CEB Maintenance Africa, a subsidiary of Telkom through Business Connection (BCX).

Irate IT and retail workers have been on a protected strike over lay-offs at the company since last week.

While the company seems to have followed due processes by consulting employee representatives in terms of the Labour Relations Act, the main demands remained in dispute.

This led the Media Workers Association of South Africa (Mwasa) to issue a 48-hour notice to strike.

As the hour approached, the company dared workers via its lawyers to go ahead and strike. "If you wish to strike, so let it," read a letter to workers via CEB Maintenance Africa's lawyers Snyman Attorneys.

READ: Telkom subsidiary CEB Maintenance Africa to strike over lay-offs

The company then hit back with the lockout clause, which effectively barred workers from its premises.

"We have been dealing with a lot of representatives for the company without clear resolutions to the impasse," claimed workers, who wished to be unnamed for fear of reprisals.

They are referring to the human resources departments of CEB Maintenance Africa and BCX, Telkom, Snyman Attorneys, LabourNet and now Maserumule Attorneys.

The new legal firm issued a notice to interdict the strike action.

"The company has peddled schisms among sector unions, thereby dividing workers," claimed a worker.

"The Communication Workers Union, which was not initially part of the strike notice (only Mwasa was), was cited as a respondent in the Labour Court interdict notice," he added.

CWU general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala told News24 that that CEB is driving a wedge among workers. "They even lied to workers (that) we agreed to the retrenchment(s)...  they went on to tell us that Mwasa is poaching our members.

"Their (aim is) to see a fight between sector unions, while they continue with their dirty schemes to squash the strike," he added. He explained that the rumour that the CWU is conniving with the company is false.

"It's probably because our official failed to attend important meetings on this matter."

Trade union Solidarity believes the company followed due process "to the letter".

"We have one member at CEB and we are considering the merits of whether the selection criteria were fair," said spokesperson Francios Redelinghys.

Meanwhile, workers are also frustrated that there are suggestions to suspend but not cancel the countrywide strike which is affecting productivity in the retail sector, according to CEB Maintenance Africa CEO Desmond Poulter.

"There was consultation of workers before the strike - suspension of the strike (because of fears stemming from) the latest court interdict warrants a proper mandate from workers," said an affected employee.

Mwasa general secretary Tuwani Gumani said the brewing wedge between workers is informed by "some who want to be politically correct".

"We were suprised that CWU was all of a sudden a respondent in a matter that we were solely involved in and initiated."

The CWU's Tshabalala said: "I think we were cited as such because the lockout affected all workers at the company, not just Mwasa members."

Mwasa is affiliated to new labour federation Saftu, which claims to be apolitical, while CWU is an affiliate of Cosatu, an ally of the ruling ANC.

While Poulter was in a CEB Maintenance Africa board meeting and thus unable to speak to News24, striking workers were weighing their options.

Telkom, the big elephant in the room, did not revert to News24 despite initial promises to respond by the time of publishing.

"CEB is dividing us; they are now demanding lists of striking workers and their union affiliation," complained a worker.

This was confirmed by Gumani, who said this "makes a mockery of freedom of association - this tactic was used by Lonmin which led to the Marikana massacre".

He added: "We are facing a Marikana scenario."



cwu  |  mwasa  |  telkom  |  labour  |  unions  |  strikes
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