SAA vindicated by a Labour Court ruling today

JOHANNESBURG, 17 August 2015 – South African Airways (SAA) feels vindicated by the ruling of the Labour Court today following a ruling of the court in relation to the retrenchment procedures followed by SAA and challenged by organised Labour at SAA and SAA Technical (the maintenance subsidiary of SAA).

Labour unions AUSA, NUMSA, SATAWU, Solidarity and others sought to prevent SAA from proceeding with its retrenchment exercise pending compliance with a fair procedure. While it was within the labour unions’ rights to approach the court, SAA feels it was a step completely unnecessary as the differences could have been resolved in a mutually constructive manner.

The court, in its judgment, stated as follows:

“During the consultation process, the companies consulted with the seven registered unions referred to above, and two management representative bodies. Although the 60-day period provided for in section 189A(7) elapsed on 20 June 2015, the consultation process was extended on a number of occasions – first to 9 July 2015, then to 22 July, and thereupon to 22 August 2015. To date, over the course of some three and a half months, the parties have conducted nine facilitated consultation sessions and 45 private consultation sessions”.

The court termed the consultation process as a dynamic process of consultation over a period of some three and a half months.

In relation to SAA, the court held that the collective agreement concluded between SAA and its recognised trade unions, being NTM, UASA and SAACA (who were the fellow respondents) was valid and binding. Consequently, AUSA, NUMSA, SATAWU, Solidarity and others’ attempt to set aside an agreement concluded between SAA and its recognised trade unions failed. SAA and its recognised trade unions believe that the collective agreement benefits SAA and all its employees.

In relation to SAAT no collective agreement was concluded despite numerous attempts by SAAT to conclude such an agreement for the benefit of SAAT’s employees and the company. The court dismissed AUSA, NUMSA, SATAWU, Solidarity and others’ application. It held as follows:

“In circumstances where the parties have to date engaged in nine facilitated consultation sessions and 45 private consultation sessions, and where the consultation process is due to continue at SAAT, I am unable to detect any substantial procedural failure in relation to SAAT that would warrant the intervention of this court in terms of section 189A(3) at this stage.”

The court’s dismissal of AUSA, NUMSA, SATAWU, Solidarity and others’ application is indicative of the fact that processes of this nature can only be resolved with a commitment by all parties to joint consensus seeking. The parties have a mere five days prior to the consultation sessions being potentially terminated. We call on the trade unions to commit themselves to the process in the interest of SAAT and its employees.   

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