STAFF at a cellular airtime reseller recently bought out by MTN say the operator is reneging on a promise that none of the 250 staff would be made redundant.
More than half of iTalk Cellular's staff now face unemployment as their jobs are being eliminated, and some have already resigned after realising their positions would be axed, says a source in iTalk's Cape Town office. Only six of the 20 staff there were being retained, six resigned before they were pushed, and the rest would be axed next month, the source said.
"More than 50% of the iTalk staff will not be merged into MTN as there are no posts available to accommodate us," the source said. "They told me I'd be secure in the job and now they're telling me I'm not. Only six of our 20 people are being re-employed."
ITalk shops in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban were being closed, the source said, with only a few staff being absorbed.
MTN's human resources executive Themba Nyathi said the claims are false, as the restructuring was still in progress. MTN had committed to no lay-offs for a limited period, he said, "but having said that we are in the process of restructuring and looking at internal efficiencies".
Asked whether 50% of iTalk employees were in jeopardy, Nyathi said: "That's not true at all. I can't give a figure of what it may be, the numbers are a little bit fluid."
MTN was still consulting the staff to find them alternative jobs where duplications had to be eliminated. One problem was that someone may be offered a job in a different region if their role no longer existed, but they may not want to relocate.
Nyathi said some iTalk stores in unprofitable areas may close, but again no decision had been made. Departments were assessing who could be absorbed where, he said, and he would soon brief the directors on the final number of cuts.
When MTN bought the business, its rival bidder Huge Group argued that the deal was anticompetitive as MTN would close down iTalk to eliminate a competitor and end its customer discounts. MTN denied the allegations during Competition Tribunal hearings.
Yet the Cape Town insider said job-cut decisions had now been taken and were affecting staff in reception, sales and customer service in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg.