Carol Paton Writer at Large
Picture: 123RF/ RICHARD VAN DER SPUY
Picture: 123RF/ RICHARD VAN DER SPUY

In yet another twist to the drama unfolding at SAA, the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) said on Thursday that it will interdict SAA’s plan to retrench more than 900 employees.

Satawu, which is not one of the recognised unions at SAA, is in a majority union coalition with Solidarity and the Aviation Union of Southern Africa (Ausa) at subsidiary SAA Technical (SAAT). However, it does have some members at SAA.

“The law says that the company must consult everyone on retrenchments, which SAA did not do. They went public without telling us,” said Satawu spokesperson Zanele Sabela.

Sabela said the union had been part of a meeting with SAA last Friday at which no mention was made of the restructuring, but which was suddenly announced on Monday.

The recognised unions at SAA — the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa); the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacaa) and the National Transport Movement (NTM) — have also raised objections to the way SAA sprang the retrenchments on them.

All three unions had met management on Monday morning, who did not mention that the restructuring plan would be announced that afternoon.

SAA management said that they called a meeting for that Monday afternoon, but the recognised unions did not show.

Meanwhile, wage negotiations at SAAT also deadlocked this week and the coalition has received a strike certificate, which it can use from November 22 . Should SAAT go on strike, almost all airlines, both domestic and international, would be grounded. SAAT conducts line maintenance checks, which must be done before an aircraft can fly, for most airlines.

Last night, SAA raised its wage offer to employees which unions say they are considering and will decide on later.

A meeting between management and trade unions is scheduled for Thursday afternoon. If the new offer is accepted the strike — which could cause SAA irreversible damage — will be averted.

Spokesperson for the airline Tlali Tlali said the company placed an offer of a 5.9% wage increase on the table. While the company has previously offered this it is not guaranteed and is dependent on the ability of SAA to raise funding. However, SAA wants unions to agree to receive back pay later in two instalments in April 2020 and October 2020. The agreement is backdated to April 1 2019.

Said Tlali, “This is a demonstration that, notwithstanding the strike notice, we remain intent on averting the strike as it could hurt the airline in a manner that goes beyond immediate recovery.” 

patonc@businesslive.co.za