SAA workers told not to return to work next month

SAA workers in Durban have been told that they should not return to work on March 1. This is after the airline’s business-rescue practitioners announced earlier this month that the coastal town would be one of the 11 routes that would be closed at the end of this month. 

In a recording, one of the airline’s managers at its Durban branch can be heard telling SAA workers that they will be joining the unemployment queue next month because of the decision by the rescue practitioners to close the route. The meeting was held on February 7, a day after the business-rescue practitioners released a statement detailing their intentions to restructure the ailing airline in a bid to “conserve cash, and create a viable platform for a successful future”.

The manager at the Durban branch, whose name is known to the Mail & Guardian, tells workers that “in this day and age, where the economy of our country is shrinking and companies are closing, it is a sad day indeed for all of us”. 

She also tells the staff that the rescue practitioners have rejected proposals to move workers to SAA subsidiary Mango Airlines, or any other companies. 

“They [the business-rescue practitioners] will be cutting Johannesburg as well. Staff members in Johannesburg will be removed in Johannesburg because the staff in Jo’burg will be too much for the current schedule that they will be having,” she says. 

“In Cape Town, they will only be having four flights per day. There [are] going to be retrenchments in Cape Town as well … [SAA is] not ceasing operations but there will be drastic reductions of staff members.” 

Listen to full recording here:  

Unions challenge airline in court

The recording was referred to in the labour court on Tuesday as part of the applicants’ evidence. Two trade unions — the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) — have taken the SAA business-rescue practitioners, Les Matuson and Sizwe Dongwana, to court in a bid to have their plans to terminate the services of workers interdicted.

Arguing for the unions, advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi said that SAA plans to retrench close to 1 000 workers. He said these retrenchments will occur without proper consultations with workers. 

Numsa and Sacca argue that the rescue practitioners have not complied with section 136 of the Companies Act, which states that during  a company’s business-rescue process, the rescue practitioners are still subject to the provision set out in section 189 and 189a of the Labour Relations Act. 


Under the Companies Act, the rescue practitioners are required to consult with labour regarding possible retrenchments, even though a company is undergoing a business-rescue process. 

SAA was placed under business rescue in early December last year. In January the cash-strapped airline received a R3.5-billion life-line from the Development Bank of South Africa. This was after the R2-billion that the airline received from private creditors in December as part of the conditions for business rescue. 

Last week, following criticisms from the department of public enterprises and President Cyril Ramaphosa regarding their plans to cut 11 domestic routes, the business-rescue practitioners said that they decided to accelerate the “necessary” job cuts to maintain the airline’s cash reserves. The practitioners said that the life-line given by the Development Bank and private creditors will likely be used up by the end of March if the airline does not reduce its head count. 

Ngcukaitobi said that SAA’s reasons for job cuts should be rejected on the basis that the practitioners have not complied with the law. “This is not a mere restructuring: it is a restructuring that will ultimately result in the reduction in headcount.”

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Thando Maeko
Thando Maeko is an Adamela Trust business reporter at the Mail & Guardian
Advertising

The recovered remain cautious

People who have survived Covid-19 are not going through life carefree. They are still taking all the preventative measures

Lockdown relief scheme payouts to employees tops R14-billion

Now employers and employees can apply to the Unemployment Insurance Fund for relief scheme payments
Advertising

Press Releases

Covid-19 and Frontline Workers

Who is caring for the healthcare workers? 'Working together is how we are going to get through this. It’s not just a marathon, it’s a relay'.

PPS webinar Part 2: Small business, big risk

The risks that businesses face and how they can be dealt with are something all business owners should be well acquainted with

Call for applications for the position of GCRO executive director

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory is seeking to appoint a high-calibre researcher and manager to be the executive director and to lead it

DriveRisk stays safe with high-tech thermal camera solution

Itec Evolve installed the screening device within a few days to help the driver behaviour company become compliant with health and safety regulations

Senwes launches Agri Value Chain Food Umbrella

South African farmers can now help to feed the needy by donating part of their bumper maize crop to delivery number 418668

Ethics and internal financial controls add value to the public sector

National treasury is rolling out accounting technician training programmes to upskill those who work in its finance units in public sector accounting principles

Lessons from South Korea for Africa’s development

'Leaders can push people through, through their vision and inspiration, based on their exemplary actions'

Old Mutual announces digital AGM

An ambitious plan to create Africa’s biggest digital classroom is intended to address one of the continent’s biggest challenges — access to education

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday