We haven't decided on number of Air Chefs layoffs yet - SAA

Air Chefs, the catering arm of South African Airways, has launched a consultation process with unions that may lead to job losses. This comes as the airline embarks on its latest airline turnaround strategy. 

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tali, in a written response to Fin24 on Monday, said Air Chefs has initiated a consultation process with unions in terms of section 189 of the Labour Relations Act.

Section 189 is initiated if an employer is considering dismissing employees based on operational requirements. The employer then consults with workplace forums or trade unions in an effort to to lessen the severity of job losses. 

Tlali said Air Chefs has not yet made a decision on how many workers would be laid off. The consultation would allow the stakeholders to “explore avenues” to “avert laying off staff”.

“Retrenchment is an option of last resort when all other avenues have been fully explored,” he said. 

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) in a statement said that Air Chefs had plans to retrench 118 workers out of a total workforce of 1 200.

Numsa wants retrenchments to take place within the SAA Group, the parent company of Air Chefs. “Our members demand that any restructuring must take place at a group level and should not be decentralised.”

Turnaround strategy

According to Tlali, as part of implementing its turnaround strategy “employee ratios” at SAA are under consideration.

SAA CEO Vuyani Jarana, meanwhile, recently told Parliament's finance oversight committee that he had made efforts to outsource workers to other airlines to “soften the blow” of the rationalisation of the business.

“We are concerned about the survival of the airline, its employees and its return to positive financial performance,” Tlali said.

The airline has been struggling with its financial position, and requires R21.7bn over three years to service debt, of which R9.2bn is historic, and R12.5bn for working capital.

“For us to return to positive financial performance, we must implement the turnaround strategy – something that has eluded SAA for many years.”

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration is set to facilitate a consultation between Air Chefs and unions on June 19.

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