Exclusive: Sad and Blues at MTN Uganda as 143 Staff “on Fire”

towers mtn

All is not well at the Uganda’s biggest telecom company has disquietude seems to roam more than Nitrogen in the corridors of MTN Uganda Towers on Plot 22 Hannington Road and at Bugolobi MTN Switch corner this first quarter of the year. There’s a sudden plague of jitteriness and dilemma specifically among the 143 staff under the Network Managed Services of the Network Division which is under restructuring and soon to be taken over by ZTE (Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment Corporation).

Genesis of the impasse

On the 11th February this year ZTE was awarded the contract to take on MTN managed services for the next 5 years during a comprehensive selection process that was conducted by MTN Group Technology Division this surprised many key engineering staff at MTN as many believed Huawei were the most probable candidates. Many who follow the telecom space by the book believed that Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd was better positioned to win the contract because ZTE is used to playing second fiddle to Huawei in most of the other 30 African countries that these two Chinese firms have established more than 40 third-generation telecom networks.

 

What Does It Spell For The Affected Staff Contracts?

Unfortunately most of the key Division staff with vendor certifications’ have Huawei certifications or those without certifications have at least hands-on experience with either Ericsson or Huawei equipment and so going by that background it was a human resource short coming for ZTE. What will happen to staff that are operating Huawei and Ericsson equipment for the last 9 years? What will happen to staff without ZTE certifications? And lastly, which staff have to be eventually restructured? These are the questions that many of the 143 staff are asking themselves.

A screenshot from the Intranet Portal
A screenshot from the Intranet Portal

 

143 Staff Contracts to be terminated

A source privy to the meetings at MTN Uganda talks about ongoing negotiations between the affected 143 staff that started on Friday 13th February this year. This meeting yielded no fruit since the first negotiation meeting chaired by Brian Gouldie the CEO and Michael Sekadde General Manager-Human Resources. The duo tactically arrived late for the meeting, from that point management continued to allude the affected staff until the 19th March when a certain member of HR suggested that they set up an internal intranet portal to crowd source any complaints and inquiries that the affected staff could voice without any physical human involvement because the negotiations were always hitting a dead-end.

The intranet portal also failed terribly as they were barely any grievances gathered staff preferred to voice their concerns to a committee and felt divided they fall and united they stand, the affected staff set up a 9-man committee to help with the negotiation’s that to date are still ongoing.

Intranet Portal with grievances  of staff
Intranet Portal with grievances of staff

 

Is HR or CEO the Problem?

For some reason the affected staff feel the HR department is working against them especially the General Manager-Human Resources Michael Kaweesa-Sekadde. The negotiations were hitting a dead-end until a meeting on 30th March that gathered all the affected staff at Golf Course Hotel. During the negotiations, management tried to solve a few concerns but sadly some very vital concerns like severance pay and provident fund contributions, were not agreeable by the CEO who intentionally refused to accept the demands of the affected staff during that particular meeting. The CEO kept on talking in circles and never arriving to the point. When pushed by the committee, he threatened that those who don’t sign will be terminated, and will get a maximum of 2 weeks’ pay.

 

Payment Issues

CEO MTN Uganda Brian Gouldie
CEO MTN Uganda Brian Gouldie

According to our sources, the negotiations always hit a dead-end because of the ever-changing stand from management when it comes to matters of severance pay at one time management says it’s a transfer and not a termination and at another time management claims it will compensate the affected staff with 2 weeks pay per year of service and at another time, management promises to compensate each of the affected staff with 12 month salary, accrued leave, overtime, bonuses and unpaid wages.
Techjaja also learnt that, the CEO wants to appease his bosses at MTN Group by making sure that the affected staff get very little in compensation one of the reasons why it’s alleged he has frustrated the current transition.  He seems hell-bent on cutting down costs, maybe to show impact as a new CEO.

Staff Fears

The affected staff “fear” that if MTN ceases to have any responsibility over them and cannot guarantee their re-employment by the Managed Services provider, this will be quite perplexing for them given the fact that management at one time claimed it’s not terminating their contracts but it’s transferring the Network Managed Services Division.

Fear of the unknown

Will ZTE win the next contract after 5 years? They say they will re-hire all former MTN staff that will then be at ZTE if ZTE doesn’t win the contract in the next 5 years! Does that make sense?
From the team at Techjaja we shall keep you posted on more of what’s happening at MTN Towers.

Featured Image Credit: viewafrica.com
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