CWU is “confrontational” and “obstructionist” – Labour Court

The Labour Court of South Africa today handed down a damning judgement against the Communication Workers Union (CWU), describing the union as “confrontational”, “obstructionist” and noted that the CWU had withheld key facts from its founding affidavit, Telkom said on Wednesday.

The judgement relates to an urgent application brought to the Labour Court on 1 August 2016. The CWU sought to interdict Telkom from completing the Section 189 (retrenchment) phase of the company’s restructuring of its corporate office.

The judgement found against the CWU and was clear that the union had not consulted in good faith noting “…there is not one real example in any of the consultations conducted, of the CWU making a proper proposal on any of the Section 189(2) consultation topics.

Between 8 March and 19 July, Telkom attempted to consult with the CWU on 15 different occasions. Telkom even sought to supplement consultations outside of the formal facilitated process to ensure that all issues were addressed.

Despite these many attempts, the judgement notes that the union maintained an “intransigent” position, insisting that all processes be halted and wages be negotiated.

“Throughout all our consultations with organised labour, we have sought to engage in a fair, transparent and meaningful manner. We negotiate in good faith and are pleased that today’s judgement recognises that our adherence to and respect for due process, was not in vain,” said Jacqui O’Sullivan, Telkom Managing Executive: Communication.

The judgement states: “CWU had every opportunity to participate in the consultation process… It had every opportunity to table its own proposals. But to adopt the approach of effective non participation in the process, wait until employment of employees is terminated, and then after the fact complain about the process, is just not proper.”

The court found no unfairness in the circumstances surrounding Telkom’s restructuring process and instead found that the conduct of CWU itself had undermined consultation efforts.

The judgement states: “The overall objective of fair consultation has been achieved, despite the CWU’s best efforts to scupper this. In the end, it is the conduct of CWU itself that stands in the way of it claiming procedural unfairness.”

While the judge indicated a temptation to award costs, based on the conduct described in the judgement, the decision was not to award costs in an effort to maintain the relationship between Telkom and the CWU.


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