Home South African Unions approach courts to block SAA retrenchments

Unions approach courts to block SAA retrenchments

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The business rescue practitioners revealed last week that they planned to retrench staff at SAA.

JOHANNESBURG – Workers unions have approached the courts in a bid to interdict the planned retrenchments at South African Airways (SAA) that was revealed by the business rescue practitioners (BRPs) last week. 

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) said on Tuesday that they had filed papers at the Labour Court for an urgent application to interdict the BRPs from taking any steps towards the termination of services of employees at SAA.

The union’s application is expected to be heard on Thursday at the Labour Court in Johannesburg. 

The unions, which together represent about 3000 SAA workers, also want the rescuers to comply with the provisions of the Labour Relations Act (LRA).

SAA’s joint rescue, Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, on Thursday, announced the closure of domestic routes – except for Joburg-Cape Town – by the end of the month and potential mass job losses as a result.

“It is our intention to restructure the business in a manner that we can retain as many jobs as possible. However, a reduction in the number of employees will unfortunately be necessary,” they said.

But Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said the rescuers should comply with the terms of the wage agreement signed late last year following a week-long crippling industrial action. 

“We are also seeking an order from the court that the BRPs must be directed to comply with the terms of the wage agreement which was signed on the 25th November 2020, which stipulates that workers facing retrenchment must be placed on the Training Lay off scheme,” she said. 

“The BRP’s together with the SAA management have deliberately ignored this option, and instead, are pushing for mass retrenchments through the cancellation of routes.”

Hlubi-Majola said they “disagree vehemently” with the BRP’s for their decision “to kill” SAA by disproportionately reducing routes.

The union’s view about the closure of domestic routes is shared by the government which has ordered that the decision be reviewed.

The department of public enterprises said on Friday that the government will be making representations to Matuson and Dongwana to balance the necessity for trimming unprofitable routes with the need to ensure the future sustainability of both the airline and South Africa’s aviation industry. 

BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE