Trade unions file court application over South African Airways job cuts

A South African Airways (SAA) aircraft is pictured after landing at Cape Town International Airport in Cape Town, South Africa December 9, 2019. REUTERS/Sumaya Hisham

Two trade unions in South Africa have filed an urgent labour court application over planned job cuts by embattled South African Airways (SAA), a spokeswoman for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa said on Tuesday.

Some analysts have argued that the layoffs would be key in reviving the national carrier’s fortunes.

SAA is in a struggle for survival after being placed under a form of bankruptcy protection in December.

The trade unions however say that the planned layoffs are against the country’s labour laws.

We’ve gone to court in order to safeguard the rights of our members and to ensure that proper legal process is followed if retrenchments do occur,” NUMSA spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said.

Hlubi-Majola said the unions were concerned that SAA’s business rescue practitioners wanted to accelerate job cuts outside of the 60-day mandatory consultation period provided for in the labour law’s section 189 process.

NUMSA and another union, the South African Cabin Crew Association, are also seeking a second court order compelling the business rescue experts to implement a training layoff scheme negotiated as part of a wage deal last year.

The scheme would see the affected workers receive three-quarters of their salaries for a minimum of six months while they are retrained.

Hlubi-Majola said unions expected their application to be heard on Thursday.

A spokeswoman for SAA’s business rescue team could not immediately comment.