4,700 jobs on the line as SAA begins consultations with labour unions

Image credit: Flickr/Roderick Eime

South African Airways (SAA) has started a consultation process with labour unions in terms of Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act regarding possible job cuts.

According to a statement by SAA’s joint business rescue practitioners on Monday, around 4,700 employees could be affected.

The business rescue practitioners, Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, said they had issued notices to all the unions involved, including the SAA Pilots Association, the SA Cabin Crew Association, and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, among others.

‘No final decisions taken yet’

They said, “Our intention has always been to preserve as many jobs as possible through this process while still focusing on having a sustainable airline and platform for growth.

“We must emphasise that no final decisions have yet been taken, nor will any final decisions be taken until we have exhausted consultation and hopefully reached agreement.”

The government placed SAA on voluntary business rescue in December 2019 after the airline experienced heavy losses totalling R26 billion over the past six years.

The potential job cuts are part of the business rescue process and follow the cancellation of several domestic and international routes announced in February.

Some routes to be reinstated

The domestic route cancellations, which had intended to leave only the Johannesburg-Cape Town route in operation, drew strong opposition, including from President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Last week, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan said some of the domestic routes will be reinstated.

“We want absolute clarity on the routes, even some of the domestic routes that have currently been cancelled will be reinstated, perhaps in a different form,” he said.

In another statement in late February, the business practitioners said the airline’s lenders and creditors had granted them an extension until 31 March to publish the business rescue plan.

Employees, creditors and the Department of Public Enterprises will have an opportunity to make representations regarding a draft of the plan before its publication.

Matuson and Dongwana said, “The meeting of creditors to decide whether to approve the business rescue plan must be convened within 10 days of the date of the publication of the business rescue plan.”

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