Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said the drastic cost-cutting measures at Comair had a negative impact on the airline, including compromising safety.
LABOUR union, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), said on Monday that the drastic cost-cutting measures implemented at Comair, which operates Kulula.com and British Airways, had a direct effect on safety on the airline, which has now been grounded indefinitely by the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA).
“The drastic cost-cutting measures that Comair embarked on have really had a negative impact on the airline to the extent where they are even compromising safety,” Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola told broadcaster Newzroom AfriKa.
“One of the things we have raised, which our members have complained about, is that we do not believe the planes are getting enough ground time for maintenance. That is part of the radical cost-cutting that this company has embarked on.”
Hlubi-Majola said Comair’s troubles are a sign of failure of leadership at the apex of the company.
“We are seeing clear evidence of the failure of leadership on the side of the CEO Glenn Orsmond because this is a company that has been under business rescue for two years, and it is still under business rescue. It’s unheard of, besides the disastrous SAA example, for a company to go under business rescue for this long. The Companies Act did not foresee such a scenario.”
She said Comair executives, management and particularly the CEO are “refusing to account for this failure.”
“It shows us there is no clear direction. There doesn’t seem to be an appetite to actually get this airline into a state where it can be run, and the management can take over, and it is no longer under the guidance of business rescue practitioners,” said Hlubi-Majola.
She said workers at the airline have made “major sacrifices in the name of turning around Comair”.
“At some point, they went for many months without even getting paid. For months after that, they were earning only 70 percent while at the same time their benefits and conditions have been slashed, at the same time dozens of jobs have been lost through multiple retrenchments processes,” said Hlubi-Majola.
“Yet, this company has no problems in dishing out a million rand per month to these business rescue practitioners. Clearly, the strategies that have been implemented, where your dependence is on very, very severe cost-cutting, has gotten so bad that it even has an impact on safety. To us, that is a complete failure in the leadership. Glen Orsmond must resign.”
Frustrated travellers were on Monday scrambling to make alternative arrangements after Comair flights were grounded indefinitely. The South African Civil Aviation Authority revoked its Air Operator Certificate (AOC) privileges at the weekend.
This comes after the regulator requested documentation from the flight company as a result of safety concerns.
The authority on Sunday said it suspended Comair operations due to discrepancies found in “a spate of occurrences affecting a concerning number of flights”.
“The suspension follows the visit by the SACAA to the operator to investigate and determine the cause of a spate of occurrences affecting a concerning number of flights operated by Kulula.com and British Airways Comair. The SACAA sought to confirm Comair’s compliance with applicable Civil Aviation Regulations (CARs). The inspection was also aimed at reviewing Comair’s quality control management system and safety management systems to establish compliance related to reporting, analysis and follow-up on occurrences, and corrective action plans to prevent a recurrence,” SACAA said.
According to the CARs, Comair can appeal the suspension decision.