SAA to fight union request for info on job cuts

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Cape Town – South African Airways will oppose a court application by trade union Solidarity who wants the airline to disclose reasons for its retrenchment process.

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali told Fin24 on Wednesday that the company is aware of the application and will be opposing it.

“The financial challenges of the company require a process whereby a headcount reduction must be pursued in conjunction with the long term turnaround strategy and the cost compression programme of the company,” Tlali said.

The airline has been in discussions with unions since May about the intended restructuring of its staff. The jobs of about 700 employees of SAA and SAA Technical, SAA's maintenance company, could be affected.

Tlali said a total of nine CCMA-facilitated sessions have already been held with labour along with 45 sub-committee meetings.

“SAA and the recognised unions who represent the majority of employees have reached a collective agreement on all aspects as required in terms of the Labour Relations Act. Only the proposed structures are still being consulted.

“The unions in SAAT have chosen to pursue an interdict against the company and the case will be heard in the Labour Court on 6 August,” Tlali said.

SAA not following procedure

On Tuesday Solidarity announced that it would approach the labour court with the application to obtain an interdict against SAA and SAAT.

According to Solidarity the current retrenchment process is not following the required procedures as stipulated in section 189A of the Labour Relations Act.

“We are still discussing the rationale as well as the economic reasons for embarking on this process, however we needed some specific info to be disclosed to us... so as to have an holistic understanding,” Solidarity’s Derek Mans told Fin24.

In the application Solidarity requests that SAA and SAAT halt the implementation of the provisions of a collective agreement and that trade unions be given opportunity to consult with the employer about the retrenchments until at least August 22 2015.

Solidarity’s head of industry, Johan Botha, said in a statement that disclosure of information forms an essential part of consultations concerning retrenchment processes.

“We believe that under labour legislation the rationale for retrenchments must first be properly considered before selection criteria and voluntary severance packages can be discussed as such.

“Therefore, we want to ask the court to postpone the retrenchment process to enable us to consult with the employer about the rationale for the process,” Botha said.

Last month Solidarity together with three other unions (Numsa, Ausa and Satawu) brought a joint application under section 16 of the Labour Relations Act which requests SAA to disclose information on the reasons for the retrenchment process.

Mans said that while the application was being tabled SAA signed the collective agreement with majority unions National Transport Movement and Uasa relating to timing of dismissals, severance packages, and selection criteria.

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