The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has filed an urgent application in court challenging the decision of Comair not to pay salaries for workers in the last few months.
In the papers filed by Numsa general-secretary Irvin Jim in the Labour Court, the union wants Comair, a subsidiary of British Airways, to pay the workers and reinstate payment for medical aid.
Jim argues in the papers that the airline stopped paying workers in June and they had been relying on the Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) to pay their salaries.
Numsa also says it has been infuriated by the decision of the Business Rescue Practitioners at Comair to also stop paying for medical aid for workers during this period of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Jim stated Comair had the opportunity to resume its operations, after the government allowed flights to start operating, in June but the airline’s fleet remained grounded.
Comair was put under business rescue process but this has not been concluded.
Jim said the airline must start paying salaries for workers because even the TERS benefit was not enough as it pays a portion and not the full salary.
“Financial distress is the very reason why the first respondent (Comair) is under business rescue,” Jim argued in papers.
“In the absence of a call to liquidate and having made an assessment and call that the first respondent is capable of being rescued, the first, second and third respondents are obliged as a matter of law not to infringe upon the rights of employees in respect of both security of employment and the conditions of service,” said Jim.
“Accordingly, financial distress can never be a defence to transgress the provisions of the law regulating the rights of employees during a period of financial distress,” he said.
He further said during this period that Comair and the business rescue practitioners had “options available to secure funding but consciously elected not to honour their obligations towards employees and to simply disregard the rights if employees whistle every conceivable effort was made to safeguard and advance the rights and interests of other stakeholders (inclusive but not limited to the second and third respondents personal interests in respect of fees-the business rescue plan in further provides for a further increase in their fees)”, read the papers.
The union wants Comair to ensure workers were still paid their medical aid as this was important at this time.
The matter will be heard in the Labour Court next Wednesday on an urgent basis.