South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) in Gauteng will march on regional airline Airlink at OR Tambo International Airport (ORTIA) on Friday, 28 February to protest against the victimisation of its members.
SATAWU started organising Cabin Crew at the airline in 2016. Despite having entered into a collective organisational rights agreement in 2017, Airlink has done its utmost to make the relationship difficult. Regular activities such as salary negotiations take on a Sisyphean tone due to management’s reticence and insistence on pushing discussions to the verge of a strike. Case in point is the recent salary negotiations where workers were due for a pay rise in April 2019 but only received it in January this year.
Airlink management has also flat out refused to accede to SATAWU’s demand to include Ground/Ramp staff in the negotiated salary increase settlement even though the majority of workers in the section are affiliated to SATAWU.
The situation escalated in mid-January when the union proposed amendments to the Cabin Crew recognition agreement with the aim of extending the same rights to the Ground/Ramp union members. In response, Airlink to not only refused but also ramped up its victimising our members. The airline accused dozens of SATAWU members of intimidation for merely chatting on a WhatsApp group started for the purposes of discussing union matters. Management then proceeded to suspended seven union members at the end of January, further accusing them of insolence when they attempted to clarify the charges put to them. As if that were not enough, the company then dismissed all seven.
SATAWU has referred the case to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and is awaiting a set down date. We are also challenging Airlink’s refusal to extend organisational rights at the CCMA.
At the same time, SATAWU is fighting the involvement of LabourNet at Airlink, wherein the organisation wears two hats interchangeably as an employer association (PEASA) and a labour consultant dealing with internal employee matters. What we find even more objectionable is LabourNet’s determination to railroad SATAWU out of Airlink, a stance which is contrary to South Africa’s Bill of Rights which affirms the freedom of association.
Marchers will congregate at ORTIA, Charlie Gate from 9am and then proceed to Airways Park at about 11 am, where a memorandum will be delivered to Airlink management. SATAWU has also invited South African Airways (SAA) to receive a memorandum reflecting on these unsavoury practices by Airlink. It is our view that SAA as a state-owned entity that has a commercial contract with Airlink should not condone these practices and if needs be we will call on government to review such contract.
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