Wednesday, 04 July 2007

Pictures & letter from depths of Vodahell


The day began with CWU members driving around the Johannesburg area with placards on their cars, attracting the attention of hundreds of workers that were beginning their day.
Workers marched down the streets of "Voda Valley" in Midrand. Simultaneous protests occurred in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth.The demonstration today was a landmark for three reasons. It is the first labour demonstration in the area near Vodacom headquarters, where many of the new IT and communications companies have facilities. It is also the first time mobile communication workers engage in a recognition strike in the history of Africa. It is also one of the few times workers have struck for recognition (as opposed to wages and conditions) in recent memory in South Africa. Workers see the union as a tool to address serious problems in the workplace. For example, despite being started at the end of the era of minority rule Apartheid, Vodacom has implemented policies that have led to a workplace where positions of power are overwhelmingly reserved for single race and a single gender.

A group of managers observing from the gates of Vodacom. Judging purely by results, Vodacom has been a reluctant participant in the transformation of South African society.

Joe Chauke, President of the Communication Workers Union, on the right and Aubrey Tshabalala, Vodacom call center worker and CWU leader (left) address workers.

Greetings comrades,

It is appropriate and necessary to commend and thank those comrades who are currently engaged in protest action across the country. These are Vodacom employees who feel that enough is enough.

One worker that opts for the last resort of strike action is one to many. The fact that there are more than that by some number – who are partaking in the action aimed at contradicting Vodacom’s public claims that all is well – indicates that there is unhappiness with the way in which Vodacom treats its employees.

It is laughable that the communication officer for Vodacom, Dot Field, seeks to convey a message to the public that there are no incidents of intimidation, victimization, favoritism or disregard for fundamental worker rights that take place within its workplaces. According to her media statements there is not enough support for the claims that there is unfairness in the workplace to deem it necessary for Vodacom to even talk to this group of employees.

Vodacom hides behind an outdated agreement that is almost as old as the company to deny workers their basic rights.

By refusing to recognize a union to which its employees belong, the company is in effect saying that it refuses to recognize its employees that belong to those unions. Unless the company can show that it has a history of dealing fairly with individuals it cannot claim to be a fair employer. It knows it has no such track record. Instead it continually seeks new ways to take punitive action against its employees by dragging them into disciplinary hearings for transgressions that workers had no idea even existed. There these employees are dismissed at will without having adequate representation.

The use of these punitive measures displays keenness by Vodacom’s management to rule its workers with intimidation and fear. The workers that have decided to partake in strike action have indicated their willingness to stand opposed against workplace injustice and inequality. They stand not only for themselves but for all employees at Vodacom that are affected by the arrogance of its management.

For this they should be commended for they have taken the first steps in a journey to liberate workers at Vodacom from the oppressive grip of their employer.

To these workers we say – We salute you.

A Luta Continua!


Anonymous said...

Why does cWU only approach their black comrades to join. I was seated right next to them at Vodacom when they were signing people up. They literally ran after the blacks to sign up. I must've been invisible, as well as my muslim friend. Surely if recognition is all they are after, every number counts,or am I mistaken here? Joining a racist union......I don't think so!!! A comment on this would be appreciated.

B Viljoen said...

I can't address the incident that you describe without more information. What I can do, is give you a link to a form you can sign and send to the CWU office.

Recognition is not all we are after. It is the first step to insure, for example, that promotions at your company be done on the basis of merit, in a way that promotes a stronger company, transformation in the country and that puts an end to any form of racism or unfair discrimination.

There is room for only one race in our ranks - the united race of all workers, regardless of their skin colour, ethnic background, language, culture, religion, gender and so on.