After a gritty two-year-long legal battle, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) this week ruled that MTN could not take its mast engineers’ company cars away. Picture: Archives

After a gritty two-year-long legal battle, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) this week ruled that MTN could not take its mast engineers’ company cars away.
 
In its ruling, the independent dispute resolution body said the issue at hand was whether MTN was entitled to take the vehicles away because of “economic necessity”.
 
“(MTN) could no longer afford to give their staff what they originally agreed to as they wanted their shareholders to benefit from R6.544 billion profit rather than R 6.469 billion,” it said. “Under no stretch of the imagination could that amount to ‘economic necessity’”.
 
When they were employed, the engineers were given company cars which they could also use – within limits – for personal purposes.
 
But in December 2014, the company decided to scrap this benefit and the following April, it made attempts to take back the vehicles.
 
The Durban-based engineers, represented by Dean Caro of Dean Caro & Associates, went straight to a Johannesburg judge.
 
The judge ruled that MTN had tried to change their employment conditions unilaterally and granted them an interdict against the company, stopping it from taking away their cars and their petrol cards.
 
The company's evidence was that it could no longer afford to continue providing them with “unlimited use” of the vehicles and that taking them away, would result in a profit increase in the region of R60 million.
 
But the engineers said the benefit had persuaded them to to take up their jobs.
 
And the CCMA found that in the circumstances, MTN’s relatively minor saving from taking away the cars, did not affect the issue in any significant way and was “simply not fair”.
 
“Removing the benefit was not based on economic necessity and the application succeeds,” it ruled.
 
The engineers were also awarded costs.
 
One of the engineers and the group's designated spokesperson Siya Shange said yesterday they had always believed in their case.
 
“All along, we've always been under the impression that we were in the right and that what the company did was an injustice to the employees,” he said. “It's been a long process and the guys are very happy with the outcome.”
 
MTN had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publishing.