The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) on Sunday said it rejects any attempts by the Business Rescue Practitioners at Comair to continue to pay reduced salaries.
“We demand that from the 1 st of January 2022 all employees will receive their salaries in full and will no longer be paid only 70% of their salaries,” said a statement issued by NUMSA General Secretary Irvin Jim.
“From the 1st of January, we demand that every worker earns 100% of their salary in terms of the agreement and we will not accept any compromise.
“Furthermore, all workers at Comair are entitled to annual increases from next year. We are preparing to fight for the full implementation of that as well.”
Comair, which operates scheduled services on domestic routes as a British Airways franchisee, resumed flights on 1 September 2021, after the service was suspended owing to Covid-19 lockdown regulations.
At the time Richard Ferguson, one of Comair’s business rescue practitioners, said: “The fact that Comair is back in the skies and again earning revenue coupled with the commitment by the investors to support the viability and sustainability of the business all point to a positive outcome.”
The union said since signing the collective agreement in September 2020, employees have been earning only 70% of their salaries.
NUMSA said the agreement was reached after Comair was grounded due to financial difficulties, and then subsequently placed under business rescue.
“Fortunately, the backward collective agreement will expire on the 31st of December 2021,” said NUMSA which accused the business rescue practitioners of “milking Comair”.
NUMSA added: “That means a new collective agreement will have to be negotiated with new terms and conditions.”
The union said it was aware the business rescue practitioners had already issued retrenchment notice letters to workers as early as July this year.
NUMSA warned the business rescue practitioners were threatening to move workers at the Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha) East London, and George (PEG) airports from “permanent employment with benefits”, to contract work that would be paid at an hourly rate with no benefits.
“It is our firm view that the business rescue practitioners are milking Comair – they cost on average one million rand per month according to Comair management,” said Jim.
“They are making a fortune whilst employers are sinking into debt and despair because their standard of living has been drastically reduced.
“It is time for the business rescue practitioners to go. It seems the only reason that they have overstayed is to keep creditors away.”
NUMSA said it rejects the proposed changes to workers’ employment conditions by the business rescue practitioners.
“This proposal is nothing more than rampant exploitation of the worst kind,” said Jim.