Unions demand 'meaningful engagement' on SAA business rescue, or it's back to court

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the South African Cabin Crew Association said on Tuesday that they had written a letter to the Business Rescue Practitioners at South African Airways, demanding "meaningful engagement" during the Business Rescue Process in terms of the Companies Act.

The two unions believe the BRPs should not publish a business rescue plan until they have first "disclosed all relevant documentation to allow workers to engage in meaningful consultation, pertaining to the business and affairs of SAA". They are under the impression the BRPs intend to publish a proposed business rescue plan for the embattled state-owned airline early in March, the unions added.

NUMSA and SACCA want the workers at SAA first to be consulted on a draft of the plan so they can make proposals for possible alternatives if need be. The two unions claim that attempts are being made to get their members to accept changes to their terms and conditions of employment.

"The BRPs have sent letters to employees who will be affected by the closure of 11 routes, compelling them to agree to drastically reduced hours. They will be working three or four days in a week. We have advised our members not to sign these agreements as these are a direct violation of their rights in terms of Labour Law," according to the statement issued by the two unions on Tuesday.

The unions have indicated that they are once again preparing to approach the courts in this regard, regardless of the fact that a previous application brought in the Labour Court to prevent job cuts at SAA was rejected. The unions say they still hope to be able to appeal the previous Labour Court decision.

According to the unions, if the BRPs fail to respond to their demands by the end of Tuesday, they will approach the High Court to interdict the BRPs from publishing their final business rescue plan.

The BRPs confirmed to Fin24 that they received the letter from the two unions, but did not have any further comment.

UPDATE: On Wednesday Mashudu Raphetha, president of the National Transport Movement (NTM), also called for the BRPs to publish their business rescue plan without further delay "so that constructive consultations may ensue in an attempt to mitigate its negative impact on the workers".

"The wrestling match playing out in the public domain will not help anyone but may inadvertently expose the entity to its demise, and hence we call upon all stakeholders to negotiate this precarious terrain with much caution as all may be lost while engaging in casting public aspersions at each other instead of constructively engaging in finding solutions for all people of SAA," said Raphetha.

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