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Get CCMA to intervene at SAA, says DA

Jan 20 2013 12:55
Johannesburg - Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba must get the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to determine whether a striking union has recognition at SA Airways (SAA), the DA said on Sunday.

"Gigaba has watched from the sidelines as SAA executives botch negotiations with labour unions on the eve of the African Cup of Nations," Democratic Alliance MP Natasha Michael said in a statement.

SAA employees went on strike on Friday, accusing airline management of refusing to recognise their union, the National Transport Movement (NTM).

NTM claims SAA refuses to recognise it, even though it has 1 300 members.

"The DA calls on the minister to urgently employ the... CCMA to conduct a ballot of SAA employees to determine the representative union," said Michael.

However, Gigaba's spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete said the DA was contradicting itself. 

"These are the same people who said that the state should not get involved in SAA matters, but are now saying it should intervene," he said.

"This is an operational issue, and the SAA management will determine what needs to happen," he said.

Michael said the strike was "entirely preventable".

"The uncertainty at SAA has reached fever pitch as acting board members and acting executives second-guess each other's every move," she said.

On January 11, the Business Day Live website reported that the strike had been suspended after SAA acting chief executive Vuyisile Kona reached an interim agreement with the NTM.

After the agreement, SAA board member Lindi Nkosi-Thomas reportedly declared any resolutions between NTM and Kona null and void.

"There can be little doubt that the embarrassing and overt disunity between the board and the acting CEO facilitated the resultant strikes later in the week," Michael said.

SAA said on January 11 that after a series of meetings in December with the union and the CCMA, NTM failed to gain recognition because it did not have enough members.

It said a commissioner at the CCMA had confirmed in a report that the union needed to have 1 220 members. This would give it the required 30% of the 4 065 employees who were already part of the bargaining unit.

On Thursday, SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali dismissed the union's claim that it had reached the required number of members to be recognised.

"NTM relies on a claim that its membership is more than 1 300. Their membership is inclusive of employee categories that are not provided for in the bargaining forum constitution," said Tlali.

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