South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) is exploring all avenues including approaching the Labour Court to seek an urgent interdict against South African Airways (SAA) bid to retrench almost one thousand workers.
SAA announced its intention to retrench 945 workers in the media late on Monday but did not bother notifying unions within its own Organised Labour Forum. Section 189 of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) is very clear that all unions representing workers in the company should be consulted and so should unorganised employees. Therefore by not consulting the unions, SAA is in breach of the stipulations of the act.
SATAWU, through its coalition with the Aviation Union of Southern Africa (AUSA) and Solidarity, is an integral part of the Organised Labour Forum and views management’s refusal to consult, as union bashing of the worst kind and a misdirected strategy to influence the outcome of the ongoing wage negotiations.
SATAWU, through the coalition, holds a majority within SAA subsidiary SAA Technical. Wage negotiations at SAAT deadlocked when management put a zero percent wage offer on the table. On Tuesday, wage talks continued at Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). SAAT put a non-guaranteed offer of 5.9% on the table, saying the board would only approve it on condition management cut operational costs to fund the increased salary bill.
Labour did not accept the offer. The CCMA consequently issued a strike certificate but instructed the unions delay embarking on industrial action until 22 November to afford both parties more time to engage.
By approaching the Labour Court, SATAWU intends to force SAA into complying with the stipulations of S189 of the LRA so it can start the process of consultation in earnest. That way labour will have the opportunity to analyse the restructure plan and by so doing find concrete means to avert the proposed retrenchments.