The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union on Friday slammed SA Express acting CEO Siza Mzimela’s reported plans to cut staff numbers at the beleaguered airline as opportunistic and unimaginative.
The statement from Satawu comes as the airline is dealing with a number of challenges, including the recent grounding and cancellation of flights.
The union cited an article by City Press, which said Mzimela told an SA Express board committee that the airline’s ratio of 822 employees for 10 aircraft showed the company was overstaffed.
The union took issue with reports that Mzimela told the board committee the airline would be operating 15 aircrafts by the end of April, seven less that the 22 currently being operated.
'Low hanging fruit'
"By targeting workers instead of ensuring the remaining seven aircraft are compliant with South African Civil Aviation Authority safety standards, Mzimela is picking low-hanging fruit. This tends to happen with managers who lack ideas and are overwhelmed by the task at hand," the Satawu statement said.
The union said downsizing the staff compliment without consulting employees and exploring other alternatives was an indictment on management.
"Satawu will request a meeting with SA Express to discuss this latest development. As far as retrenchment is concerned, we will address it as a labour relations matter because that is precisely what it is," the statement said.
SA Express general manager for human capital Thuli Mpshe said it was normal for organisations to look at their systems and operations, to ensure their long-term commercial sustainability.
"As part of the airline's strategic thrust to strengthen its operational efficiency and to achieve long-term commercial sustainability, it has cut back on some of its unprofitable old routes such as those to George and Richards Bay, as well as regional hubs like Durban, although it continues to fly there," said Mpshe.
Mpshe said the airline was aiming to have a maximum of 15 aircraft in service by the end of June, as the airline’s staffing levels were not in line with its operations.
She said SA Express was committed to following the prescripts of the Labour Relations Act to include labour as a part of its consultation with all affected parties.