Unions file urgent court application to block job cuts at SAA

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and South African Cabin Crew Association have filed a joint urgent application in the Johannesburg Labour Court to stop business rescue practitioners of South African Airways from taking any steps to cut jobs until they have complied with the provisions of the Labour Relations Act.

The unions' papers were filed on Monday. 

Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, Numsa's national spokesperson, said the unions hoped to be able to argue their case in court on Thursday. 

This comes after the airline's business rescue practitioners Siviwe Dongwana and Les Matuson announced last week that the flag carrier would be cancelling all of its domestic routes apart from the popular Johannesburg to Cape Town flight.  At the time, the BRPs said that while "every effort is being taken to limit the impact of job losses in SAA and its subsidiaries" they also added that a "reduction in the number of employees will unfortunately be necessary."

In their urgent application, the two unions ask the court to declare that SAA and the BRPs be "interdicted and restrained from taking any steps towards the termination of the services of any of the applicants’ members" pursuant to the airline's current restructuring and business rescue initiatives, until they have complied with the provisions of the Labour Relations Act.

These provisions include "proper joint-consensus seeking consultations".

Hlubi-Majola said on Tuesday that the unions were also seeking an order from the court that the practitioners must be directed to comply with the terms of the wage agreement which was concluded last year in the wake of a strike.

This agreement, which was signed before the business rescue process commenced, stated that workers facing retrenchment must be placed in a training layoff scheme. Under this scheme, according to Hlubi-Majola, workers facing layoffs would be paid 75% of their salaries by a Sector Education and Training Authority, or SETA, as they learn new skills.  

The business rescue practitioners have indicated that they are aware of the application by the unions and will oppose it.

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