The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa said it was shocked and dismayed after airline Comair announced on Tuesday that it was going into business rescue.
Comair, which operates British Airways and low-cost airline kulula.com in South Africa, said it had no choice but to make the move after its implementation of a turnourand strategy was disrupted by a national lockdown to flatten the curve in the spread of Covid-19, grounding air travel.
While the airline had started making good progress to fix its financial situation, the crisis linked to the coronavirus pandemic had scuppered its efforts, Comair chief executive Wrenelle Stander said in a statement.
NUMSA general secretary Irvin Jim said the union had first heard about the business rescue via the media.
“Once again the leadership of Comair is insensitive to its own employees and has not considered the emotional and psychological impact of making such an announcement in the media, without engaging employees first,” he said.
He noted that the announcement came against the backdrop of looming retrenchments after the airline served notices on workers in March.
“We are expecting to meet with the management soon to get more details on how this process will affect operations. We remain committed as always to doing everything possible to save as many jobs as we can,” said Jim.
The Comair news is the latest blow for the country’s airline industry after national carrier South African Airways also went into business rescue last December. SAA’s recovery efforts have also been derailed by Covid-19, and the government has indicated it is not longer able to provide it with financial support.
Comair said the ongoing national lockdown in South Africa enforced from March 27 in a bid to contain Covid-19 — which has infected 7,572 people in the country to date — meant that airlines were likely to be grounded until October or even November.