Frustration over MTN’s phone supply problems

Johannesburg - Distributing phones amid a weeks-long strike is becoming a challenge for mobile network MTN.

Reuters reported on Thursday that a Communication Workers Union (CWU) strike at MTN is hurting the mobile network’s supply channels.

MTN call centre and store workers have been on strike since May 20 amid their calls for higher annual salary and bonus pay. Up to 2 000 workers are reported to be on strike.

In the meantime, Reuters reported that the strike has resulted in limited supplies of mobile phones at MTN's store in Centurion and its shop in Sandton City, Johannesburg.

Fin24 users, though, say the MTN phone shortages extend to more areas.

“Last week Monday all three MTN Rustenburg stores turned me away saying that they are out of stock and could not give me an indication of when they would receive new stock,” Fin24 user Lyle Haywood wrote in an email.

Phone shortages are also said to be hitting MTN stores in Tshwane.

“Brooklyn MTN turned us away yesterday (Wednesday),” Fin24 user Nico Van Straten wrote in an email.

“MTN has a backlog of approximately four weeks to approve contracts due to the strike, according to the consultant,” Van Straten wrote.

A Fin24 user in Durban also complained of MTN phone shortages in that city.

Meanwhile, Fin24 user Mapaseka has not only experienced phone shortages at MTN but also problems with the company’s call centres and shops.

“I went to three different MTN stores and they were closed. When I called MTN customer care the phone would  ring for almost 45 minutes before anyone can assist you ... I have been unable to do an upgrade,” wrote Fin24 user Mapaseka in an email

“I have been informed that all shops do not have stock in the meanwhile my current phone is giving me problems; I am considering porting my number,” Mapaseka added.

MTN concedes disruptions

MTN SA’s chief of human resources Themba Nyathi has acknowledged that the company is experiencing problems with its distribution network during the strike.

“MTN has in the past indicated that the strike has led to disruptions at some of its service centres including its distribution network,” Nyathi said in an email to Fin24 on Thursday night.

“The reality is that our distribution was physically attacked by violent strikers and MTN put into place an alternative distribution route. The distribution contingency has kicked into place as such all backlog in our channels is being cleared,” Nyathi added.

Nyathi further said that MTN expects to have “addressed our distribution teething challenges” on late Friday afternoon.

“All stores and channels are now being filled,” said Nyathi.

“The contingency distribution alternatives we came up with are permanent and in line with our new business processes being implemented. We just sped up the new implementation of a futuristic customer centric distribution model that was long in the making,” he added.

Nyathi also told Fin24 that, despite the strike, MTN was undergoing revamping its distribution network anyway.

“MTN has used the challenges posed by the strike to speed up the implementation of the new distribution model. When fully implemented, this new model would translate in a lesser headcount which will result in a cost effective process and less cumbersome bureaucratic process,” said Nyathi.

“It must be noted that the core functions of the company have not been affected by the strike and normal operations have commenced. We expect operations to be fully restored soon,” Nyathi added.

At the time of writing, talks between MTN and the CWU were deadlocked.

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