Court dismisses union bid to halt Telkom deal

A bid to halt Telkom’s sale of its 15% stake in cellular operator Vodacom was dismissed with costs in the High Court in Pretoria on Thursday.

Handing down judgement, Judge Bill Prinsloo said the Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) had failed to prove that the transaction—set to be implemented next Friday—would adversely affect employees.

The union had argued that the deal worth R22,5-billion could result in retrenchments and that it had not been fully consulted on the transaction by Telkom’s management.

Arguing on behalf of Telkom, Nick Maritz, SC, said the union had been given the opportunity to raise any labour-related concerns but had failed to do so.

“It was invited to raise the labour-related concerns ... the invitation was not taken up.”

Last year Telkom announced the sale of its 15% stake in cellular operator Vodacom, worth R22,5-billion, to multinational cellular operator Vodafone.

Prinsloo said it was “patently clear” that management had acted within its ambit of conducting and concluding matters such as the Vodacom share deal.

The union had also been consulted on numerous occasions on labour-related concerns, he said.

It also emerged that the three unions represented at Telkom had been given assurances, both written and orally, that there would be no retrenchments resulting from the transaction.

However the union argued through its lawyer Neil Tuchten SC that negotiations in this regard were still continuing and that Telkom should conclude these before the deal was given the go-head.

Responding to this Prinsloo queried whether this approach was an artificial one and that the transaction could ultimately and indefinitely be stymied by the workers.

“That they can assist or carry on negotiating until the cows come home ... there seems an unfair element.”

That the union was contractually allowed to negotiate on matters concerning the running of operations at Telkom, in particular its strategic operations such as the transaction, was wrong and misplaced, said Prinsloo.

“The applicant has failed to make out a case or even a prima facie right,” he said.
- Sapa

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