The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) announced on Monday that the business rescue practitioners (BRPs) overseeing South African private-sector airline group Comair had agreed to immediately reinstate medical aid for the airline’s workforce. This followed Numsa’s threat to take legal action over the issue.
The BRPs had informed Comair employees last Monday (August 31) that the group would cease to pay contributions to their medical aid, with effect from September 1. This came on top of the failure of the airline to pay its staff since June 1 (they had been forced to go on unpaid leave).
“We met with the attorneys over the weekend and they confirmed that Comair would be reinstating the medical aid for August, September, October and November 2020,” said the union in its statement. “If the proposed Business Rescue Plan which is scheduled to be voted on the 18th of September is adopted, then the Post Commencement Funding will cover the medical aid contribution until the end of November 2020. Given that this was the primary reason for going to court, we have decided to withdraw the urgent application from the Labour Court.”
However, there still remains the issue of the salaries. Numsa stated that it would be meeting the Comair BRPs on Tuesday to seek a solution to this problem. The proposed Business Rescue Plan includes a provision that the workers waive their rights to their salaries until the end of November. The union was never consulted on this.
“In terms of the Companies Act we should have been consulted particularly as changes in the terms and conditions of employment can never be imposed by management,” highlighted Numsa. “We want to find solutions, but if the engagement fails, we do not rule out returning to court in order to enforce our rights.”
Nevertheless, the union was pleased at its success in getting the company to reinstate its medical aid contributions, describing it as “another victory for Numsa and its members”. It expressed its thanks to its officials and legal team for their efforts in the matter.