Court dismisses bid to halt SAA job cuts as airline has not 'contemplated dismissals'

The Johannesburg Labour Court has dismissed a joint urgent application by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA and the SA Cabin Crew Association to halt job cuts at SAA, ruling the airline had not contemplated dismissals. 

The unions lodged the interdict earlier in the week in a bid to prevent the flag carrier's business rescue practitioners from proceeding with they said were "accelerated retrenchment" processes for employees that they said did not follow the correct legal channels. The unions wanted the court to compel the airline to engage with them via provisions in the Labour Relations Act. Evidence was heard on Thursday. 

On Friday morning Judge Graham Moshoana said it was the court’s conclusion that the national carrier had not yet contemplated retrenchment procedures. "[As such] the duty to consult in the contemplation of section 189.1 of the LRA did not arise," he said.  

There was no order with regards to costs. 

The legal bid by the unions followed an announcement by the BRPs earlier in the month to cancel all the airline's domestic routes apart from the popular Johannesburg-Cape Town flight in an effort to save cash. At the time the practitioners said that "a reduction in the number of employees will unfortunately be necessary" due to the cuts.  

President of the SA Cabin Crew Association, Zazi Nsibanyoni-Mugambi, said on Friday that the court’s decision was shocking.“[The court has] in essence taken away workers’ rights to be meaningfully engaged and consulted prior to a restructuring taking place."

Numsa Spokesperson spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said the ruling was "completely outrageous" and the union would fight it. 

Later on Friday, the court heard arguments from the unions to be granted leave to appeal, along with arguments from SAA in opposition. Judge Moshoana reserved judgment until further notice.

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