Embattled state-owned entity South African Airways (SAA) has sought to clarify why it plans to proceed with its restructuring process that will result in job losses. Interim Chief Financial Officer of SAA, Deon Fredericks says that the restructuring process is necessary to secure the future of the national airline.

He also says SAA is fighting for survival and its revenue is under pressure.

SAA has denied the unions’ allegations that they were not consulted on the restructuring process.

The airline is adamant that it informed the unions of its intention to issue a Section 189 notice which facilitates the retrenchment process. Fredericks addressed the media in Johannesburg.

“On 11th of November, SAA issued a written notice to all recognised unions within SAA, in line with the LRA; this was after SAA scheduled a meeting with unions on the same day. The recognised unions did not attend. I’ll repeat the recognised unions did not attend. Our representatives for employee relations called each of these recognised unions to tell them that the company has issued a Section 189.”

SAA says the restructuring process will be subject to consultation and negotiations with unions, management and CCMA. The airline says the number of employees to be retrenched might be less than the nine hundred workers mentioned in the media.  Earlier the airline said if they shed over 900 jobs they could potentially save R700 million. SAA has also denied that their restructuring process is to prepare to sell to private partners. They expect negotiations to be finalised by March next year.

“It is important to note that yesterday the company lodged an application to the CCMA to appoint a senior commissioner who will appoint these consultations.” says Fredericks.

Martin Kemp, General Manager of Human resources at SAA elaborates: “So these are indicative numbers and it’s all subject to consultations so that can be a completely different number after we have gone trough the consultation process. Trade unions or employees that will engage will come up with a number or solutions that may vary this number; our aim is to make sure we minimise any retrenchment’s.”

The airline also confirmed there will be no wage increase in this round of negotiations due to their dire financial situation.  Fredericks says any planed strike action due to wage dispute by unionised members will continue to disrupt the future of the airline.

“We had nine meetings on wage negotiations since February and in the latter part of the negotiations SAA made presentations as leadership regarding SAA liquidity status, financial performance progress made on the turnaround strategy.  We have clearly indicated SAA’s difficult financial situation even though we have made reasonable progress with implementation of our long term strategy. We understand this is a very difficult time for all employees.”

SAA says they are also in the final process of selling all their non-core assets and have revised their procurement process. The retrenchments will only be applicable to SAA and not its subsidiaries. The airline says all departments will be affected by the retrenchments.

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