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Union awaits court ruling on airport catering strike

07 October 2019 - 08:44 By TimesLIVE
Air Chefs says contingency plans are in place should the industrial action go ahead.
Air Chefs says contingency plans are in place should the industrial action go ahead.
Image: SAA

The labour court ruling on Air Chefs' application for an interdict to prevent a strike by its staff at major SA airports is expected on Monday afternoon.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) had warned there would be no food or catering services on several airlines and in airport lounges. However, Air Chefs, a subsidiary of SAA, had approached the court to block the strike.

On Sunday evening, Numsa said in a statement it had defended the action.

“The court heard arguments from both parties. The judge asked for time to apply his mind before making a decision,” said Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, its national spokesperson.

Judgment in the case was reserved until 2pm on Monday, “when the judge will give a final decision on whether the strike is protected or unprotected,” said Hlubi-Majola.

The union said the issue at the heart of the labour action was a decision by Air Chefs management to “unilaterally remove the anniversary bonus”.

“Air Chefs argued in court that the anniversary bonus is regulated by the bargaining council in (the) catering (sector). They claim it has been substituted by an annual bonus, which is in the main agreement. We argued that there is no clause in the main agreement to back this up,” said Hlubi-Majola.

“The employees of Air Chefs have enjoyed both annual bonus and the anniversary bonus for the last 10 years, it forms part of the benefits of working for the company. The employer had no right to unilaterally change these conditions without consultation.”

SAA spokesperson Tlali Tlali said on Sunday that in addition to the application for an interdict, contingency plans were in place to ensure there was “minimal to no impact” on operations.

“Air Chefs has activated its contingency plans to ensure business continuity should the industrial action materialise. This means [that] measures are in place to mitigate the impact of the strike by Numsa and to render services to all Air Chefs customers, including the airlines it provides catering services to,” he said.