The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has said that its members are shocked, angry and feel betrayed after Comair’s business rescue practitioners (BRPs) announced that the company would be liquidated.
Numsa met with members of the Shop stewards council at Comair to brief them on the announcement by the BRPs that they do not believe the Comair can be rescued, and therefore, they have started the process to liquidate the company.
Numsa said: “They feel betrayed because they fought with all they had to keep the airline in the sky. For more than two years, they were not paid their salaries in full because they were told this would ensure the airline's survival. Comair was founded in 1943. It is a viable business which has over 40% share of the aviation market. It is facing collapse simply because it was mismanaged by Richard Ferguson, the BRP and the CEO Glenn Orsmond.”
Richard Ferguson was appointed in May 2020 after the airline was placed under business rescue.
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.
Since then, Ferguson and Orsmond have lurched from one crisis to another.
Numsa further lambasted the two and said: “They have not bothered to engage workers in a meaningful way, and they took decisions unilaterally without consulting stakeholders.”
In March, Comair had its operating licence suspended, and the airline was grounded by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) because it was not adhering to safety standards.
Numsa says Business Rescue process was a sham
“It is also very clear that the entire business rescue process was a sham. They did not make an effort to save the business, and through their actions, Ferguson and Orsmond have destroyed the airline. They have ruined the brand and the trust that the South African public had in the airline,” Numsa said in a statement on Friday.
“The dominant narrative in South Africa is that the private sector is more efficient and can do better than the state at managing entities. However, Comair is the perfect example that this is simply not true. The airline was totally mismanaged to the point of collapse, and the most painful thing is that more than 1200 workers will pay the highest price for their failure,” Numsa went on to state.
Entire aviation industry set to suffer
The impact of Comair’s liquidation was a significant loss to the nation and sub-Saharan Africa and would likely impact not only business and private trips but the industry and those who supply the failed firm, the acting chief executive of Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa (Caasa), Kevin Storie, said yesterday.
Storie said that there was the possibility of a significant increase in ticket prices due to availability.
Impact on Lanseria Airport
Storie believed that Lanseria International Airport, based in Gauteng, would suffer a significant loss of revenue since the ability to replace the lost schedules would take time.
He said this along with the fact that the Air Services Licensing Council that issues such licences for operations and routes had been absent for a significant length of time, severely debilitating growth in the industry. It had only recently restarted and would now face extra pressure for other airlines to take up routes and move citizens and vital tourists needing carriage around this country.
Storie said it was critical that the government streamlined their strategies and became an enabler to enhance the fast-tracking of services industry requires to replace or expand capacity.