Former MTN SA senior manager Brian Seligmann, who left the mobile operator late last year, is taking the company to court, demanding almost R1m in severance pay he says is being withheld from him.
Seligmann (pictured), who is joining MTN rival Cell C on 11 January as executive head of products and innovation, was senior manager for data at MTN. In that role, he was responsible for developing the company’s 3G products, pricing and strategy. He was at MTN for eight years.
He says his lawyer has prepared papers, which will be filed with the high court when it returns from recess on 17 January. He wants MTN to cash up and accuses the company of acting unlawfully.
When MTN SA offered voluntary retrenchment packages to staff last year as part of a company-wide cost-cutting initiative, Seligmann jumped at the opportunity as he says he had already been looking to move on to “greener pastures”.
His application was accepted.
“They then heard I was probably going to join Cell C and the head of human resources phoned me and said that if I was going to Cell C, then the retrenchment package would be cancelled,” Seligmann says.
He accuses MTN of “shifting the goalposts” — he was told that he could only receive the retrenchment benefits if he signed a restraint of trade agreement. This would have prevented him from joining Cell C.
“The restraint wasn’t part of the original deal,” Seligmann says. “You can’t introduce something like that after the fact. What MTN has done is not legal.”
But MTN SA group executive for human resources, Themba Nyathi, says all MTN SA staff members who accept voluntary retrenchment must sign termination agreements.
These agreements include confidentiality and restraint clauses, he says. “We can’t treat Brian differently to anyone else … [so]we are treating this as a resignation.”
MTN says it will defend the matter if it goes to court.
Seligmann, meanwhile, is joining Cell C at an interesting time in its development. The company has committed to spend billions of rand this year building what could be SA’s most advanced 3G wireless network. — Duncan McLeod, TechCentral