Comair (South Africa) (MN, Johannesburg O.R. Tambo) has withdrawn employee dismissal notices but will seek other ways of cost savings, according to a statement by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) which has welcomed the airline’s move.

Comair – which remains in voluntary business rescue and operates the British Airways franchise and its own low-cost Kulula Air brand – had issued a Section 189 notice to NUMSA on March 1, 2022. Under South Africa’s Labour Relations Act, Section 189 permits employers to dismiss employees on operational grounds.

A Comair spokesperson confirmed to ch-aviation the company had advised the trade union and South Africa's labour dispute resolution Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) that the Section 189 notice and proceedings would be withdrawn after the CCMA commissioner had advised all parties that he did not believe the process was the most appropriate for the changes sought.

"Unfortunately, the harsh realities of the industry have not changed and the company will still need to achieve the necessary staff and other cost reductions in order for the business to remain sustainable," the Comair spokesperson said.

NUMSA claimed Comair had sought to cut salaries by 15% and reduce medical aid benefits. The union had objected to the Section 189 notice as salaries had already been cut by 30%, and all benefits were reduced.

In a letter cited by the trade union, Comair cautioned it would still need to restructure conditions of employment that placed the airline at risk.

“After much deliberation on the issue of operational restructure, and with due consideration of legal advice obtained, while we still need to restructure the conditions of employment that place the organisation at risk, we will seek to explore other avenues of achieving the same saving, which may include the collective bargaining process. We, therefore, withdraw the Section 189A application under GAEK 2117-22 and will no longer continue to consult on this issue in this forum,” the letter states.

Editorial Comment: Added Comair comment. - 05.05.2022 - 07:30 UTC