Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Michael Cardo has released a statement explaining that he has written to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) in a bid to get its Essential Services Committee to add certain aviation industry services to the list of those considered “essential”.
While the Constitution protects the right of workers to strike, this doesn’t extend to essential services, so if successful, Cardo would essentially be making strikes such as the ongoing one which has seen SAA workers down tools declared illegal.
There are currently 18 essential services, according to the Labour Relations Act, and one already is in the aviation industry – air traffic control.
Others include healthcare services, power, water, waste removal, police services and security. A full list can be found here.
These services are defined in the Act as “those that, if interrupted, would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or any part of the population”, according to the CCMA.
Cardo based his call for the essential services list to be extended to include aviation-related services as a result of a statement from National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, who said the safety of those who chose to fly with SAA during the strike could not be guaranteed and that they were “putting their lives at risk”.
She said that due to the strike the airline could be using staff who don’t have the “requisite experience”.
Cardo called the statement reckless, declared the union guilty of “bullying brinkmanship” and said it was “a destructive, intransigent menace to society and the economy” who had “held the country’s air travellers to ransom for too long” as part of what he described as an “economic wrecking ball”.
However, he said that due to Numsa’s “history of violence and intimidation during industrial action” the threats should be taken seriously, which he believed necessitated the call for aviation-related services to be declared essential.
“At the very least, pilots and all technical ground and air staff who are in any way responsible for passengers’ health and safety should be regarded as performing an essential service,” Cardo wrote.
“Given the strict security provisions at airports, and the fact that many of the functions rendered by aviation logistics companies require specialised employees, it is difficult to find replacement labour in the event of a strike. This underscores the case for designating these services as essential in the aviation sector.”
Hlubi-Majola said she would respond to The Citizen’s requests for comment after reading the statement. Her response will be added once it has been received.
(Compiled by Daniel Friedman)