SAA and its treasurer faced each other in the labour court this week before agreeing to refer all four matters in dispute to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
The matters relate to suspended SAA treasurer Cynthia Stimpel blowing the whistle on a dodgy finance deal involving little-known company BnP Capital.
SAA slapped Stimpel with four charges: unlawfully disclosing and accessing company documents; sending a colleague a defamatory message; insolence; and not using the airline’s internal whistle-blowing mechanisms.
SAA and Stimpel initially agreed that three of the four charges be referred to the CCMA.
Brett Abraham, Stimpel’s lawyer from Webber Wentzel, said that SAA had given an undertaking that they would not proceed on the outstanding charge pending the outcome of the CCMA referral.
A key point of dispute was also who should cover legal costs that had arisen as a result of the matter.
Stimpel had offered to pay her legal costs as long as SAA paid its legal costs.
However, SAA wanted Stimpel to pay its legal costs as well as her own.
Steven Budlender, an advocate representing Stimpel, said that if the court ordered his client to cover SAA’s costs, it would have a chilling effect on whistle-blowers like Stimpel.
Stimpel had argued that her disclosures related to the BnP Capital matter were protected by the Protected Disclosures Act.
The Protected Disclosures Act makes provision for procedures in terms of which employees in both the public and private sector, who disclose information of unlawful or corrupt conduct by their employers or fellow employees, are protected from “occupational detriment”.
In the end, after hearing arguments from both sides, Judge Hamilton Cele ruled that each party should cover its own legal costs.