Cell C employee commits suicide amid retrenchments

June 1, 2012 • Mobile and Telecoms, Top Stories

In the wake of media reports that South African mobile operator Cell C plans to retrench about 150 workers from their 16 000 workforce, a company employee reportedly committed suicide after receiving notice of his retrenchment.


Cell C is set to retrench 150 employees (image: Cell C)

Trade union Solidarity raised the fact that the employee committed suicide, and called on the mobile operator to stop the retrenchment process and hold talks with the various unions on how to effectively organise the process, and consult with members who might be affected.

“The union said it spoke to the man’s family. They believe he was pushed over the edge by the possibility of losing his job,” Eyewitness News wrote.

Solidarity spokesperson Marius Croucamp lambasted the operator for not holding talks with the unions regarding the possible retrenchments.

“Trade unions play a crucial role in retrenchments. Solidarity follows a set plan of action in terms of which certain guidelines and methods are applied to minimise the effects of retrenchments and possibilities are explored to avert retrenchments,” Croucamp told The Mail & Guardian.

Croucamp added that Cell C acted too quickly in implementing the planned layoffs, without taking into consideration of the emotional pain it might cause.

“Cell C apparently acted hastily in starting to consult with employees over the planned retrenchments and failed to take the emotional impact a retrenchment notice has on employees into consideration. We have seen a decline in the moral values in big corporates in the way they deal with people.”

Yesterday Cell C was reluctant to give further details saying only that they have not yet completed the process.  “As we have not completed the consultation process with the affected staff, we are not in a position to provide any further information,” said Cell C’s executive head of communications, Karin Fourie.

“The objective of the restructuring process is to streamline the business, to bring the business closer to our customer base and to make it more competitive. We are focusing on the areas of the business that we believe are overstaffed,” she added.

Cell C denied that the employee who died was officially told that he would be retrenched.

Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor



4 Responses to Cell C employee commits suicide amid retrenchments

  1. Adele Ankiewicz says:

    I am the employee who committed suicide's sister. His name was Andre.
    Andre was not at work on Monday or Tuesday as he was owed massive amounts of leave and so was forced to take days off in order not to accumulate them further. He was one of those employees that rarely takes leave and then ends up with a heap of it. However, he was working all the way. This is clear from the phone records we have. He was sorting out issues on Saturday, Sunday (his line manager can testify to calls and these are reflected in his call logs), Monday and Tuesday. In fact, the day of his death 59 calls came in and went out between 8am and 4pm – around the time of his death. Only ONE of these calls was a conversation with family or friends – it was with his wife and lasted 50 seconds. The remainder of the calls were EXCLUSIVELY to Cell C staff and suppliers. The calls listed include his manager, his staff, his retrenched colleagues, the Payroll Officer and the Big Man who's call everyone knew spelled the end (pardon the pun), Mr Human Resources. The last human beings that my brother spoke to were his Manager and the Payroll Officer. He put down the phone, walked a couple of meters, and shot himself. Ending 59 calls. And his life.
    As a family we are understandably devastated by what has happened. My brother spent the last few months under massive pressure at work trying to deliver what the company needed. Many of my calls to him were cut short late at night because he was still at work. He wasn’t a workaholic, but he set very high standards for himself and took personal pride in delivering the best he could.
    After many years with Cell C, and hours and hours of overtime, pressure, and an attempt to give the best he humanly could in a time of corporate chaos, he was left with some sour words and a waiting envelope. Everyone in business understands that restructuring and retrenchments are a fact of life, as is work pressure. But a company the magnitude of Cell C has a responsibility to their employees to offer assistance in times of pressure, and counselling in times of retrenchment.
    The well-being of your employees is a valuable asset.
    An Employer that knows they are creating this kind of pressure cooker for their employees in times of change should have a responsibility to the human beings they are driving so hard, and that responsibility is support. At the very least. Cell C did cut off his cell phone unceremoniously on Thursday. They have not yet received his death certificate in order for them to do this, but the employees that were retrenched (alive or dead it seems), all got their phones cut off this week. So, it seems Cell C does follow SOME kind of process, the processes that Cell C deems important. Thank you for the flowers Cell C, a phone call from ANYONE in your company may have been a little more respectful though. Oh, apologies, your Payroll people called about money.
    But I'm left with one remaining impression.
    Cell C…For Yourself.

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