Unions representing workers at South African Airways (SAA) have moved to appeal a decision rejecting their application to interdict the airline from alleged planned retrenchments.
While SAA business rescue practitioners claimed in the Labour Court yesterday that there were no planned further retrenchments for the airline outside of the Section 189 retrenchment process which was already under way, the unions argued there was ample proof that the practitioners planned to retrench workers after the cancellation of 11 flight routes as the state airline was scrambling to cut costs.
Speaking on behalf of two of the unions, spokesperson for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said Numsa and the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) were shocked by the decision handed down by the court yesterday.
“Effectively what the court is saying is that they believe the business rescue practitioners at SAA are not contemplating retrenchments. We find this to be completely outrageous because there is ample evidence to prove the contrary … The business rescue practitioners had two engagements with Sacca and other unions where they made it very clear that they needed to embark on mass retrenchments outside of the Section 189 process,” said Hlubi-Majola.
“Apart from that they went even further – they cancelled 11 routes. Not only did they cancel the routes they also consulted with the UIF (Unemployment Insurance Fund) to fund retrenchments. But then they have the nerve to come to the Labour Court and tell them that they are not contemplating retrenchments.”
The South African Communist Party (SACP) pledged its support for the unions.
“We pledge our profound solidarity with the workers,” said SACP spokesperson Alex Mashilo.
“In addition, we may ask where is the business rescue plan or turnaround strategy that the business rescue practitioners are following, and whether the shareholder, government as represented by the department of public enterprises, has voted for it?”
The party has previously blasted SAA’s business rescue practitioners for failing to provide a business rescue plan.
A decision by the Labour Court on the application for leave to appeal was expected next week.
“The arguments have been heard already in the Labour Court for leave to appeal. Judgment on this is reserved and we are expecting a decision probably early next week,” said Hlubi-Majola.