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Waiting game continues for SAA pilots regarding use of scab labour following postponement

SAAPA urgues that an employer cannot just selectively unlock employees who had formed part of the initial lockout.


SAAPA urgues that an employer cannot just selectively unlock employees who had formed part of the initial lockout.

Gallo Images/Jacques Stander

  • An urgent application by the SAA Pilots’ Association in the Labour Court has been postponed.
  • The application was mainly to declare the SAA lockout unprotected or unlawful.
  • SAA argued that the matter was not urgent and should not be heard at this time.

An urgent application by the SAA Pilots’ Association (SAAPA) in the Labour Court in Johannesburg on Thursday has been postponed for hearing until 15 June.

The application was mainly to declare the SAA lockout unprotected or unlawful.

SAA argued that the matter was not urgent and should not be heard at this time, denying the lockout was unprotected. The court did not make an explicit finding that the matter was not urgent, despite expressing a prima facie opinion that the application was not urgent. SAAPA, therefore, was unsuccessful in obtaining any interdict.

SAAPA wants to prevent the airline from using replacement labour during the ongoing dispute with the carrier declared illegal. 

According to SAAPA, the current lockout of its members since 18 December should also be declared unlawful. The union said in a statement on Wednesday evening that, should the lockout be declared unlawful, it is prepared to stop the current strike by its members immediately.

SAAPA members recently started the strike in order to prevent a situation where the company lifts the lockout only for some pilots, especially training pilots, who are needed to get the airline back in the air again.

Furthermore, SAAPA says it has agreed to cancel its existing Regulating Agreement (RA) the day after its members are retrenched in terms of the RA.

SAAPA is also arguing that salaries owed to striking pilots from before the commencement of the lockout should be paid just as other employees were paid.

Scab labour ‘not permitted’

In its labour court application, SAAPA argued that SAA’s lockout instituted on 18 December 2020, has not been in response to any industrial action by SAAPA and that SAA is, therefore, not permitted by law to take into employment any person to perform the duties of those of the applicant’s members who are currently not rendering services due to the strike.

Alternatively, SAAPA wants the court to declare the lockout unprotected and unlawful and interdict SAA from participating in the current lockout of SAAPA members and from prohibiting or restraining SAAPA members from tendering their services at SAA.

SAA and the business rescue practitioners, on the other hand, claimed there is no imminent threat to merit the matter being heard on an urgent basis.

They claim that management pilots were never locked out and the lockout was lifted on training pilots on 29 March 2021 and, therefore, SAA is entitled to use replacement labour for those categories of pilots and that the strike in respect of those categories of pilots cannot be regarded as an offensive strike.

SAAPA, on the other hand, argued that industrial action must be seen as a collective action and that an employer cannot just selectively unlock employees who had formed part of the initial lockout.

The rescue practitioners are currently trying to wind matters up so that they can exit the process and hand the airline back to the interim board. SAA announced on Wednesday that Thomas Kgokolo has been appointed by the interim board as new interim CEO of the airline.


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