SAA begins retrenchment consultations

TROUBLED TIMES: SAA has begun retrenchment consultations which will potentially affect its entire staff complement
TROUBLED TIMES: SAA has begun retrenchment consultations which will potentially affect its entire staff complement
Image: 123RF

It is still too early to tell how many staff at the Port Elizabeth Airport will be affected by possible retrenchments at SAA.

In a joint statement with the business rescue practitioners, the national airline announced on Monday that it had issued a notice advising employees of the intention to begin consultations in terms of section 189 of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995.

The notices were issued to all the recognised unions in SAA for employees and management.

The BRP said they would begin the consultations, which would  affect all 4,708 employees based in SA, on Thursday.

On Tuesday, Numsa shop steward Luyanda Lelu said at the Port Elizabeth Airport that they had anticipated retrenchments,  but were shocked these could potentially affect all staff.

“We want this whole process to be done in a proper way, in line with the LRA and with proper consultation.

“What we’re worried about is the big number that has suddenly been thrown about of more than 4,000 workers to be affected.

“Our job is to obviously to try to minimise this number, because I don’t know how accurate it is yet,” he said.

Lelu said it was still too early to tell if and how Port Elizabeth staff would be affected.

“At this point its still too early because once the process is fully under way, only then will they go into detail for the different regions and departments.”

Lelu said everyone was shocked but he urged employees to remain calm.

“Obviously, towards the end of last month, there was uncertainty as to what would happen to our jobs and now this.

“We don’t want people to panic so we’ll allow the unions to continue consulting and minimise on job losses,” Lelu said.

In a statement sent out on Monday, BRP 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.”

SAA has experienced numerous financial and business challenges, and cumulative losses of about R26bn over the past six years.

Forward sales have declined significantly with all markets showing negative or minimal growth within a very competitive market.

The recent marked decline in travel due to the Covid-19 virus will worsen matters.

BRP said the changes at SAA were structural and economic.

“They are urgent if liquidation is to ultimately be avoided, in which event all employees will lose their jobs.”

It added significant changes to conditions of employment, including remuneration and benefits, appeared unavoidable and would be sought by agreement.

“Regrettably, this restructuring exercise, if implemented, may lead to positions being declared redundant across various job categories and in significant numbers.”