Cosatu ‘surprised’ at SAA retrenchment plans, says Ramaphosa is being undermined

Image credit: Flickr/Roderick Eime

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has expressed surprise at plans to retrench workers at South African Airways (SAA).

Solly Phetoe, Cosatu’s Deputy General Secretary, told News24 on Friday that the African National Congress (ANC) did not raise the issue during an alliance political council meeting held on Sunday and Monday.

The alliance consists of the ANC, Cosatu and the South African Communist Party (SACP). SAA revealed the plans, which could affect more than 900 workers, on Monday.

Phetoe said, “It was a surprise for us. [Finance Minister] Tito [Mboweni] was there, and at no stage did this announcement come up. At least they should have taken us into their confidence so we could say, ‘Let’s engage.'”

‘President is being undermined’

Phetoe said there are some in the ANC and government who wish to privatise Eskom for their own benefit, adding that they are undermining President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“People are looking to benefit if SAA is sold. There are those who continue to undermine the president, either within the ANC or government but certainly in business. If there is an honest discussion by the alliance, we may resolve the problem,” he said.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) called for a strike starting Friday.

‘SAA to lose R50 million per day’

They are firmly against SAA’s retrenchment plans and have also demanded an 8% salary increase across the board.

They also rejected an improved 5.9% offer from SAA, insisting that workers should not shoulder the blame for alleged mismanagement and corruption at the airline.

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), led by its General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, supported the strike, as did the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).

On Thursday, SAA announced the cancellation of all domestic, regional and international flights for Friday and Saturday. It estimated that it would lose over R50 million per day.

The Cosatu-affiliated South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) has not joined the strike.

However, it launched an urgent court application on Tuesday to interdict SAA’s retrenchment plans.

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