Labour court to decide on SAA retrenchment application on Friday

Numsa and the SA Cabin Crew Association want the labour court to declare the purported retrenchments at SAA null and void.
Numsa and the SA Cabin Crew Association want the labour court to declare the purported retrenchments at SAA null and void.
Image: SAA

The labour court application by two unions to stop the business restructuring processes at SAA — which involves retrenchments — was a publicity stunt to show that they can stop these processes.

This submission was made by Andrew Redding SC, counsel for the airline and the two business rescue practitioners, on Thursday.

The business rescue practitioners and the airline are opposing the application by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA and the SA Cabin Crew Association, which want the labour court in Johannesburg to declare the purported retrenchment of employees null and void.

The unions went to court because they believe the announcement by the practitioners last week meant that they did not want to embark on the retrenchment processes set out in section 189 of the Labour Relations Act.

The section permits employers to dismiss employees for operational requirements. However, it requires that consultation must take place when the employer contemplates retrenchments.

The consultations must try to reach consensus on a number of matters, including the possibility of avoiding the dismissals, measures to minimise the dismissals and appropriate measures to mitigate the effects of retrenchments.

Opposing the unions' application, Redding said that section 133 of the Companies Act states that, during business rescue proceedings, no legal proceedings  against the company may be commenced in any forum.

Redding said that now that the business proceedings were under way, the unions could not institute any legal proceedings against the practitioners — unless they obtained permission from the high court.

He added that the application by the unions was premature because there were no contemplated retrenchments to speak of.

However, counsel for the unions Tembeka Ngcukaitobi said it made no sense for the unions to go to the high court, which has no jurisdiction to deal with retrenchment matters, to seek permission to litigate against the business rescue practitioners.

“This is a matter only this court may resolve,” Ngcukaitobi told the labour court.

The court said it will pass judgment in the unions’ application on Friday.

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