Union calls MTN outsourcing a 'jobs bloodbath'

Johannesburg - MTN’s plans to outsource a portion of its call centre facilities have been met with outrage by the Communications Workers Union (CWU), calling the decision a “jobs bloodbath”.

On Wednesday, MTN [JSE:MTN] announced that in a bid to “optimise its operations and enhance customer experience”, a hybrid outsource model would result in the service provider retaining some call centre facilities while others would be outsourced.

The company said it had commenced the process of engaging with the employees and the unions regarding its plans in line with Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act.

“MTN can confirm that a consultation process took place with the leadership of the Communication Workers Union (CWU). MTN management met with CWU leadership on more than one occasion where this matter was tabled and discussed," Ike Dube, Business Risk Management head at MTN SA, told Fin24.

"MTN and the CWU may have had differences regarding the proposed model during these discussions, but the CWU leadership was fully appraised of the strategy,” said Dube. 

However, the CWU's general secretary, Aubrey Tshabalala, said that the matter was raised by MTN in a meeting but never approved by the union.

“Before MTN embarks on this jobs bloodbath we want every outstanding argument to be resolved, which includes the conversion of casual staff into permanent staff. We cannot allow ourselves to be ambushed,” he said.

From May 20, 2015, MTN staff embarked on a strike over bonuses, the conversion of casual staff into permanent staff, back-pay and overtime payment, which lasted until July 16, 2015.

“We’ve have seen Vodacom and Telkom adopt a similar strategy and we’ve seen that this does not work. What they are doing is replacing highly skilled and well-trained workers, and replacing them with unskilled workers – replacing quality with cheap labour,” said Tshabalala.

“MTN has found a simple way to get out of this by just speaking to a few staff members,” he said. 

Meanwhile, MTN expects the process of appointing a third-party vendor to be completed by September this year. 

“The outsource partners have a sound financial track record and have an impeccable reputation in the call centre industry, having provided services to a number of companies in the retail, telecommunications and financial services sectors,” the company said in statement.

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