Victory for SAA workers as court rules against retrenchments
CAPE TOWN – Organised labour has scored a major victory after the Labour Court ruled today that retrenchments cannot proceed at embattled South African Airways (SAA).
Labour Court Judge Andre van Niekerk ruled that SAA and the business rescue practitioners’ (BRPs) conduct in issuing a Section 189 notice to labour unions the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the South African Cabin Crew Association’s (SACCA) was procedurally unfair.
In his judgement, Van Niekerk said that SAA and the BRPs should withdraw their Section 189 notices to the labour unions.
“The remedy I intend to grant is one that serves to rectify the act of unfairness complained of (such as) the premature issuing of Section 189 notices,” said Van Niekerk in his judgement. Section 189A of the Labour Relations Act permits employers to dismiss employees for operational requirements.
Van Niekerk also said nothing in the order precluded SAA and the BRPs from offering nor any employee of the company from accepting any offer of voluntary retrenchment.
NUMSA spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi confirmed that the court had ruled that retrenchments could not proceed without a business rescue plan.
“No business rescue plan, no retrenchments,” said Hlubi.
NUMSA and SACCA filed an urgent application requesting that the court declare the Section 189 notices issued in March as unlawful.
The unions wanted the right to be considered on the government-sponsored Training Lay Off scheme, instead of being retrenched in terms of the collective agreement.
They said that the retrenchment notices were issued in haste without a thorough consideration of the situation at SAA.