Comair, the South Africa-based airline that operates scheduled services on domestic routes as a British Airways franchisee, has been officially recognised by the Top Employers Institute as a Top Employer 2020 in South Africa. Photo: Supplied
Comair, the South Africa-based airline that operates scheduled services on domestic routes as a British Airways franchisee, has been officially recognised by the Top Employers Institute as a Top Employer 2020 in South Africa. Photo: Supplied

Numsa condemns Comair's retrenchment plans

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Apr 1, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has condemned Comair’s proposed retrenchment of  200 employees to improve efficiency.

Comair, the JSE listed aviation company, initiated a Section 189 consultation process with organised labour last Monday to ensure the business was financially viable and could meet the demands of the challenging economic and market conditions in South Africa’s airline industry.

Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said in a statement that the union was not convinced that there was a genuine need to retrench because the company had contradicted itself. 

“In terms of their initial application for section 189 they say the spread of the COVID-19 virus has no bearing on the decision, but in their communication to staff they claim that they can’t afford the lockdown, which is why they have applied for Temporary Relief through the Unemployment Insurance Fund,” Hlubi-Majola said,” adding that the union believed that the company was using the COVID-19 pandemic in order to justify restructuring of the organization, for commercial gain. 

 In a letter to employees last Monday, the company said that it was considering the retrenchment of executives where inefficiencies at the executive level were identified. Employees from the engineering, revenue management, scheduling and pricing,  e-Commerce, data, and analytics divisions would also be possibly impacted by the retrenchments, Comair said.

The group, which reported an R564 million interim headline loss for the half-year results in December 2019,  said that it had never reported an annual financial loss in its 74 years of operation.

It said that underlying causes for the loss had not been addressed including the grounding of the Boeing MAX 8 which had multiple negative financial impacts. The volatile fuel prices, a weak rand, poor fleet availability due to various factors including extensive maintenance delays resulting in a need to lease additional aircraft were also problematic.

Comair said that the proposed restructuring was not as a result of the coronavirus.

“Whilst the company shall continue to monitor the impact of this virus on its staff and operations, as well as its revenue as a result of travel restrictions, it is important to understand that this has not necessitated this restructuring exercise,” said Comair, adding that the virus was already having an impact on the company.

BUSINESS REPORT

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