Unions on SAA retrenchments: ‘Inexplicable and of immense concern’_1

While South African Airways’ (SAA) business rescue practitioners (BPR’s) say that retrenchments at the embattled airline were “inevitable”, Unions NUMSA and SACCA have condemned the announcement as provocation. 

SAA announced that they would be forced to let staff go after they made the decision to cut 11 flight routes. 

In a joint statement released with the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA), National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA) categorically rejected the move. 

“No consultation whatsoever has taken place with labour as required by law and the BRP has acted in flagrant disregard of the provisions of the Labour Relations Act,” they said. 

Business rescue practitioners “ignoring solutions” 

The unions said that BRP’s have only continued the shoddy planning previously devised by SAA management. 

“Of immense concern is that the BRPs were unable to provide any rational basis for the cancelation of routes and in fact confirmed that this was a plan which was previously devised by SAA management – the very same management which is responsible for the demise of SAA and who turned a blind eye to rampant looting and corruption at the airline.”NUMSA and SACCA joint statement

The unions said that the airline’s management has ignored protocol and set up a loophole to ensure that they won’t have to fork out millions in retrenchment packages.  

“Inexplicable and of immense concern is that the BRPs, through SAA management, reneged on the terms of a collective agreement concluded with NUMSA and SACCA in 2019 in relation to the government sponsored Training Lay-off Scheme instead of retrenchments,” they said. 

“If implemented the scheme allows SAA to take workers on training and 75% of their salaries will be paid for by the SETA’s for a minimum of 6 months, while they are training.”

This would mean that the airline itself is not liable for the cost of retrenchments. 

On Thursday, SAA said that they could not afford the cost of the consultation period prescribed by the Labour Relations Act. 

UIF to be used to pay retrenched staff

BRP’s confirmed on Wednesday that they would be exploring the option of siphoning funds from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) in order to pay laid-off workers.   

The DA’s ALF leessaid that the UIF should play no part in SAA’s shithousery. 

“There can be absolutely no special deal between the bankrupt SAA and the UIF in order for the national carrier to get access to the UIF’s coffers. These funds are held by the UIF on behalf of the hard-working employees and employers of South Africa, who have diligently put these monies aside,”DA MP Alf Lees

“If there is a surplus in the UIF, it must be returned to its owners — the employees and employers who contribute to the fund. It cannot be used to bail out a bankrupt SAA and subsidise the maladministration and looting that has taken place,” he said.

Cut routes stifling economic growth in affected metros  

With 11 destinations cut from the SAA roster, Port Elizabeth, Durban and East London would be closed down and employees retrenched. This has led KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala to demand urgent meetings with SAA management.

“The province is concerned about the economic pain and suffering this decision may cause on the provincial economy and jobs.”Sihle Zikalala

“While we understand SAA is facing financial difficulties and is in business rescue, which implies that it needs to streamline some of its operations, we feel they are making cuts in the wrong places. Durban’s King Shaka International Airport has repeatedly been named SA’s fastest growing airport, for example,” he said.

“The decision to terminate this vital route — without any consultation with the KZN provincial government — amounts to economic sabotage of our province by our national carrier. We are working round the clock to put KZN on the regional economic map and we need SAA to be on the same page,” said Zikalala.