Airline operator Comair has denied that it ducked a potentially crippling bullet when the Labour Court granted it an interdict against a looming strike by members of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) on Thursday.
The court put on ice the union’s plans to begin the strike by granting the interdict. It further reserved judgment on the matters for dispute.
This, after Numsa served Comair with a 48-hour notice to commence the strike on the eve of Easter Friday.
Wrenelle Stander, the executive director in charge of Comair’s airline division, said that although the company had put comprehensive contingency plans in place in case the strike had gone ahead, it had sought the interdict in the best interests of its customers, to ensure that they reached their destinations.
“We value our employees and respect their right to strike, but we would always prefer to reach a mutually acceptable solution. We will continue to engage the union,” she said.
Stander said the company’s contingency plans included having employees from other business divisions volunteer to assist at airports, contacting customers to facilitate check-in and providing additional Fast Bag Drop counters.
Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said while the union noted the court decision, the issues disputed remained unresolved.
“Our members remain aggrieved by the fact that the airline has created a situation where some workers are earning unjustifiably higher salaries,” she said.
“We will be meeting with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration to resolve this dispute. We hope that the management team of Comair will engage meaningfully with our proposal to bridge this wage gap.”
Hlubi-Majola said the union had proposed that management must, over time, increase the wages of those who are affected by the gap, so there can be uniformity in their salaries – because they are doing the same kind of work.
“For all workers with a wage gap of less than R1 000, the employer must bridge that gap immediately. For all workers with a wage gap of between R1 000 and R2 000, the employer must bridge that gap within a 12-month period. For all workers with a wage gap of more than R5 000, the employer must bridge that gap within a three-year period.”
Numsa members make up about 400 of the 650 workers who are part of the bargaining unit, and more than 700 of the company’s 2 200 ground staff.