“Both these processes are necessary in the context of the serious challenges currently facing South African Airways (SAA). Our objective is to secure the future of our national airline to ensure a bright future for our company’s employees,” SAA interim chief financial officer, Deon Fredericks, said in a statement.
Fredericks disputed claims by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and South African Airways Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) that they had not been consulted about the restructuring process.
“This is not correct. It is SAA management’s full intention to respect and engage in a full consultative process. We recognise that this is our duty as a responsible employer,” Fredericks said.
On Monday SAA said it had informed all its 5,146 employees that it was embarking on a restructuring process which may lead to job losses for approximately 944 workers.
At the time, acting chief executive officer Zuks Ramasia said the airline had commenced a consultation process with all employees in line with section 189 of the Labour Relations Act. The act requires an employer to consult with recognised labour unions and keep abreast employees who may be affected by the restructuring.
On Tuesday unions NUMSA and SACCA said no consultation had taken place prior to Monday’s announcement about the restructuring.
“We were informed through a media statement of their intentions. We have been engaging with SAA management on wage talks and the last meeting took place yesterday. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss wage increases,” they said in a joint statement.
“We have placed our demands on the table and SAA is unwilling to consider our demands because they claim they do not have money. Pilots at SAA recently received a 5.9% wage increase because of an agreement they have signed with SAA. But our demands for an increase for an 8% have been denied.”
“This is why we are questioning the timing of this announcement. It is a veiled threat to get workers to drop their demands for wage increases and for the removal of the SAA board. They want to strike fear into the hearts of our members,” NUMSA and SACCA added.
However, on Tuesday Fredericks said that SAA issued a written notice to the unions in line with the LRA.
“It is important to mention that yesterday [on Monday] SAA lodged an application at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to appoint a senior commissioner who will facilitate the consultations.”
Since February, there were nine meetings on wage negotiations and in the latter part of negotiations, the national carrier’s leadership made presentations to the unions regarding the liquidity status, financial performance and progress on the Long-term Turnaround Strategy (LTTS), he said.
“It is our hope that our unions will grasp the full extent of the situation and engage with us in finding a constructive way going forward,” Fredericks said.
He said SAA noted with concern the threat by unions considering initiating industrial action.
“Let me state the reality clearly; any interruption to our operation endangers the future of our airline; our ability to deliver our strategy and threatens every job at SAA and related industries,” he said.
“We are confident that by working together we can meet the objectives of the strategy. Now is the time for us to unite, however difficult the decisions are for us as we move forward. Our shared responsibility is great and we can secure a bright future, not only for SAA but also for the country.”
African News Agency