Court rejects unions' bid to block SAA job cuts

A bid by two trade unions to block job cuts at South African Airways was rejected by the country’s labour court on Friday. Photo: Rogan Ward/Reuters

JOHANNESBURG - A bid by two trade unions to block job cuts at South African Airways (SAA) was rejected by the labour court on Friday.

SAA is fighting for survival after being placed under a form of bankruptcy protection in December.

The unions argued that SAA’s administrators sought to accelerate job cuts outside of a 60-day mandatory consultation period.

“It is this court’s conclusion that SAA has not contemplated dismissal and the duty to consult within the contemplation of section 183 (1) of the labour Relations Act did not arise,” Judge Graham Moshoana said in his televised judgment.

“Since the duty to consult has not arisen, the powers of this court to compel a fair procedure and or interdicting and restraining SAA are severely circumscribed.”

“For all the above reason’s the application must fail, the judge said.

The two unions are the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and South African Cabin Crew Association.

South African Airways' business rescuers announced last Thursday the carrier would cease its domestic routes for Durban, East London and Port Elizabeth with effect from March 1, saying key measures needed to be implemented immediately to conserve cash and create a viable platform for a successful future.

Unions NUMSA and SACCA said the move would have a devastating impact on workers and their families because it effectively meant SAA operatios in Port Elizabeth, Durban and East London would be closed down and employees retrenched.

"No consultation whatsoever has taken place with labour as required by law and the BRP has acted in flagrant disregard of the provisions of the Labour Relations Act," they said in a joint statement.