MTN Labor Issues in South Africa and Nigeria

Workers of the MTN Group Ltd. in South Africa intend to go on strike following an unfruitful negotiation between the mobile phone company and a particular labor group.  The mobile phone company, ranked Africa’s biggest by its subscribers, is tackling worker protests in two of the company’s biggest markets – Nigeria and South Africa. The key labor groups are in a fight for more unionization in Nigeria and improved wages in South Africa.

The Communications Workers Union in South Africa sent MTN Group Ltd. an intention to strike, followed by 120 protesters gathering outside the organization’s Johannesburg offices. The company’s spokeswoman, Jacqui O’Sullivan, responded in an email to questions about the planned protests stating that the dispute is related to salary increases from April of 2018. She added that the mobile-phone company’s operations were “largely unaffected”.

The South Africa workers’ union move comes into play the same week that MTN has been forced to shut down their offices in Nigeria due to violent protests by key labor groups within the company. The Nigeria offices were closed from Monday 9th July but re-opened on Friday 13th July.

Employees in Nigeria protest for their right to join Unions

In Nigeria, workers are retaliating against MTN Group Ltd. because of limitations preventing them from joining a labor union. Staff members of the company were assaulted and the company’s properties vandalized during the demonstrations according to a report by the company. The spokesman from MTN Nigeria reported late on Friday that the offices were back in operation; however, he declined to comment on whether a settlement had been reached between the company and the labor groups. MTN Group Ltd. for the past few weeks has been in negotiations with the country’s telecommunications regulator (Nigerian Communications Commission), the government and its ministries, as well as various related industry groups in order to resolve the conflict. The efforts to reach an “amicable resolution” with the unions led by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) are being done through the company’s headquarters in Johannesburg.

South Africa union issues notice of strike to MTN for salary increases

In South Africa, the Communications Workers Union presented MTN Group Ltd. with a notice of a protest following their failed negotiations on salary increases for workers. This marks the union’s first strike in three years. About 120 protesters appeared in a demonstration outside the company’s headquarters in Johannesburg.

Why They Have Been Picketing MTN offices across Nigeria all week

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has been picketing MTN’s offices all over Nigeria this week because according to them, MTN has been involved in unfriendly labor practices by refusing to allow its workers to be given an option on joining a labor union. In a statement signed by its President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, the Congress stated that its efforts, and those brokered by the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), to remedy the problem of unfair labor practices failed because MTN Group Ltd. would not return to the negotiating table. The statement went on to say that even though the company makes 60% of its global profits in Nigeria, it was the only country where MTN workers were not unionized and were subject to casualization which is in violation of both Nigerian labour laws as well as ILO conventions. The MTN Group, however, rejected all claims by NLC, saying that none of its workers participated in the protest.

MTN Faces Retaliation from Workers in Two of Its Three Largest Markets

South Africa and Nigeria are two of MTN Group’s three biggest markets globally. Nigeria is the lead profit-maker for MTN. The company is the carrier market leader in Nigeria, with almost 55 million users. In spite of all these successes, the company has had a struggling relationship with its workers in Nigeria, and the situation has only worsened in recent years. In 2015, MTN Group was hit with a regulatory fine that resulted in over 18 months of negotiations while also eroding share value. Recently, in 2017, MTN Nigeria’s Abuja headquarters was vandalized as an act of retaliation for xenophobic attacks on Nigerians in South Africa.

The recent protests by workers in both Nigeria and South Africa led to the company’s share price dropping 0.2 percent to R106.67 as of Friday 13th July at 12.15pm in Johannesburg, extending the year-to-date drop to 21 percent. This was followed by another decline, on the same day, at 3:26 pm in Johannesburg which valued the company at 202 billion rand ($15.8 billion). MTN’s share price has dropped a total of 22% this year, as compared to a 14% drop for Vodafone, its nearest competitor.

A Strained Relationship between Employer and Employees

In spite of housing their largest share of subscribers, the Nigeria and South Africa operations of MTN are facing difficulties with their labor situation and may be in for a huge loss evidenced by its continuing troubled relationship with Africa’s most populous country. The allegations that are being made against the mobile-phone carrier are a clear indication of its failure in complying with labor laws, and it may result in huge and long-term negotiations and losses in value, as seen in recent years.

MTN Group Ltd. has more than 220 million subscribers across 22 countries all over the world. The spotlight is now on the company, as the NLC in Nigeria takes measures to ensure the company’s employees in Nigeria are allowed to join unions and Communications Workers Union in South Africa works to ensure its employees’ salary needs are met.

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