Thursday, 19 July 2007

Union Network International condemns Vodacom arrests

UNI condemns Vodacom’s input to the arrest of Reginald Mokitlane

On July 17 2007, Reginald Mokitlane, a Vodacom worker and a member of UNI affiliate, Communication Workers Union of South Africa (CWU) was arrested by police under the instruction of a Risk Management official from Vodacom.

Reginald was going home after the peaceful picketing of Vodacom which he, along with several hundred workers has done since the strike began on July 2nd to demand recognition for their union.

The strike has been perhaps the most peaceful strike in the recent history of South Africa. No damages to persons or property have been reported.

Reginald Mokitlane was leaving the protest site when the car he was riding in was stopped by Inspector Van Niekerk of the South African Police Service. A Risk Management official from Vodacom approached the car and pointed at Mokitlane and the Inspector ordered Mokitlane to get out of the car.

The police explained to other strikers that they had a warrant for the arrest of Mokitlane for picketing outside of the demarcated area, and therefore being in contempt of a court order enforcing picketing rules. According to Vodacom, Mokitlane had crossed an imaginary line between two stop signs. However, an arrest warrant was not shown.

A group of strikers followed the police to the Midrand Police Station, wanting to clarify the situation since police insisted that there was no arrest while asserting they had an arrest warrant. At the police station, workers were notified of another ten arrest warrants.

The arrest warrants come as workers enter the third week of a strike that has been characterized by being entirely peaceful on the union side. Workers were preparing to escalate pressure on Vodacom by marching to offices in the busy central business district of Johannesburg on Wednesday, July 18th. The arrests also come as the company prepares to defend charges that the strike should be declared illegal given the risk of violence and damages to property. Workers have reported company provocateurs infiltrating strikers to insult them, cameramen charging the picket line and even slapping workers. Workers have never responded to these aggressions.

Vodacom is the largest telecommunications company in South Africa, and is 50% owned by Vodafone and 50% owned by the local fixed line provider, Telkom.

Philip Jennings, General Secretary of UNI Global Union said “UNI condemns Vodacom’s actions to victimise union members and order police to make arrests under false pretences. Vodacom are urged to sit down at the table and resolve the issues with the CWU. UNI Global Union and our affiliates will not accept this victimisation and will be raising the matter directly with Vodafone. Vodacom are denying the workers, union recognition and is not acceptable when the majority of workers have demanded union recognition. The CWU have the full support of UNI and our affiliates in their struggles”

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