A decision by state-owned entity South African Airways (SAA) to unilaterally retrench more than 900 employees has left unions and staff members fuming.
Unions believe the decision was made without following proper consultative procedures.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) have accused SAA management of “not engaging in any consultation process with its employees regarding retrenchments”.
Affected employees have also cried foul after finding out about their imminent restructuring through media statements.
The management of SAA issued a media release that said that the acting group chief executive Zuks Ramasia had commenced a consultation process with all employees in line with section 189 of the Labour Relations Act.
“We can state categorically for the record that no such consultation process ever took place. We were informed through a media statement of their intentions,” the unions said.
Speaking to City Press on Tuesday morning Numsa national spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said a meeting with SAA management on Tuesday afternoon yielded no results as “no resolution had been reached”.
“The issues we raised included that of wages but there was no agreement reached,” she told City Press.
“This is why it was a shock for us that, following our meeting with them, a statement was released about restructuring. Basically they unilaterally decided to embark on this process without consultation and we are finding out like everyone else through the media.”
She said Numsa members were very angry because it’s as though SAA was acting unilaterally.
“They are claiming in the statement that they spoke to us, but they never did – on the issue of retrenchments.”
According to a joint statement by the unions, “the mother of all strikes” was on the cards.
They said that they were in possession of a strike certificate and would put it to good use, should the state-owned entity not give into their demands for wage increases.
Hlubi-Majola said that SAA and labour unions had been “deadlocked on the issues of wages for more than two weeks”.
Chief among employee’s grievances were that the SAA claimed not to have money as well as the issue of forensic investigations that SAA paid millions for, but had not acted on.
“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% increase have been denied,” they said.
On Monday afternoon the SAA announced that it was embarking on a restructuring process.
According to the airline more than 900 jobs could be cut as it restructured to stem severe financial losses.
On Tuesday, City Press reported that the airline had not made an annual profit since 2011 and was grappling with severe funding difficulties and an inefficient and ageing fleet of airplanes.
Ramasia explained the need for the restructuring: “We urgently need to address the ongoing loss-making position that has subsisted over the past years. That is why we are undergoing a restructuring,” she said.
“No final decision will be taken until the consultation process is concluded. However, it is estimated that about 944 employees may be affected.”