Comair, which suspended its flights last week, would most likely not be able to pay its workers salaries for June as pressure mounts for the airline to find an investor in the next few weeks or go belly-up, Business Rescue Practitioner (BRP) Richard Ferguson told organised labour yesterday.
In a brief statement on social media platforms last week, Comair, which operates British Airways and kulula.com, advised the public that its flights had been voluntarily suspended from June 1 pending securing funding to resume operations.
The airline's management along with the BRP told the unions - including the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), Solidarity and the Pilots Association of South Africa - that it would not divulge the amount necessary to keep Comair afloat under non-disclosure agreements, but that it was urgent that the airline get an investor.
Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said: “They (Comair) have weeks to find an investor or be wound down. We are concerned about the jobs. We do not want the airline liquidated, but it is frustrating how they shut it down without letting labour know.
“The BRP told us that there is no money, that there was no certainty that salaries for June will be paid or guarantee medical aid will be paid,” she said.
Hlubi-Majola said Numsa had offered to facilitate that the airline’s workers be registered with the Department of Labour for training lay-off schemes while the Comair options were being considered so they would not be left in the cold.
Numsa represents about 700 Comair employees out of about 1200.
“We call for management to fix their mess and return the airline to operations. Jobs and the future of the airline are at stake. As a country, we cannot afford to lose any more jobs and therefore we will do whatever it takes to save this airline,” Hlubi-Majola said, adding that the unions had also offered to help the airline identify a potential investor, as happened with SA Express when it was in a similar predicament.
Numsa did not want the current executive led by Glen Orsmond to be involved, with unions in the past calling for his dismissal.
The flights, which Comair operates under a licence agreement, equate to about 40 percent of the country’s aviation capacity.
Aviation analyst Puthego Mojapili last week told Business Report: “The chances of (Comair) surviving this are very slim. They might not take to the skies again.”