Home South African SAA retrenches 225 workers as Takatso consortium takes over reins

SAA retrenches 225 workers as Takatso consortium takes over reins

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South African Airways (SAA) is retrenching 225 workers formerly retained for training that it says could not be absorbed into the mainstream operations after the programme failed to take off the ground.

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SOUTH African Airways (SAA) is retrenching 225 workers formerly retained for training that it says could not be absorbed into the mainstream operations after the programme failed to take off the ground.

This was confirmed by SAA spokesperson Maistry Vimla and president of the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) Zazi Sibanyoni-Ngambi.

Vimla said the workers were under no illusions about being absorbed into the fledging airline and had stayed on for training instead of taking up voluntary severance packages (VSP) with the understanding that the training programme would end after 12 months.

“The training did not materialise, there was no allocation for it. It was a social programme we initiated so as to not put workers out into the street without some form of training. The thing is they are mostly cabin crew members and do not have scarce skills. With a smaller fleet, there is no way we could absorb them into operations,” Vimla said.

She said the entire programme had been a negotiated settlement with the unions.

Sibanyoni-Ngambi said SACCA was aghast at the latest development, which she said came about because SAA could not provide updated financial statements to the CCMA when required to.

Sibanyoni-Ngambi said the union was exploring its options, had engaged with the Department of Public Enterprises for intervention and is also consulting with its legal team on the way forward.

She said SACCA’s consternation came from the fact that SAA still recruited some workers who had already left under the VSP.

“We believe these workers could have been absorbed by SAA but it continues to re-employ people who had already left. It shows a skills audit was not conducted properly, how do you retrench someone and then go back and employ them a few months later?” she said.

The 225 workers are in addition to about 3,000 workers who were let go after SAA went into restructuring.

“They sent them SMSes on Monday that they would be retrenched at the end of March,” Sibanyoni said.

Vimla stressed that the workers would not take up the VSP packages they deferred 12 months ago.

“If the training kicks in they will be contacted to return to the airline, they will still be a part of it. Those we are asking to come back after they took their VSP packages are people with critical skills. We cannot find places for these workers, how do you take someone who worked as a cabin crew member into say the CEO’s office?” Vimla said.

SAA is under restructuring now involving the Takatso consortium which last week confirmed, along with Cabinet, that it would take a 51 percent stake in the airline when the sale and purchase process has been concluded subject to regulatory approval of bodies including the Competition Commission.

“Takatso is confident that the relaunched SAA has strong growth prospects domestically, regionally and internationally, and will in due course consider partnerships with other aviation players to achieve its growth strategy, it said last week.

It would be “working closely with the Department of Public Enterprises to fulfil the conditions and ensure that the transaction is timeously concluded. All matters related to the Business Rescue process of SAA will be resolved during this time.”

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