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523 Denel aircraft specialists to be retrenched - Solidarity

Union says SAAF decision to cancel maintenance contract the cause of job losses

523 Denel aircraft specialists receive bad news

Trade union Solidarity today confirmed that it had received verbal confirmation that all 523 aircraft specialists at Denel Aviation/AMG would be retrenched as a result of the South African Air Force's (SAAF's) cancellation of its contract for aircraft maintenance with the company. The trade union expects to receive a written notice containing more details on the planned retrenchments tomorrow and the first consultation regarding the retrenchments will take place on 14 January 2013.

According to Jack Loggenberg, Solidarity's spokesperson, this announcement is extremely bad news for the 523 Denel employees who will be affected by the planned retrenchments. "This news could hardly have come at a worse time. These employees are stationed at various squadrons all over the country. They will probably not only lose their jobs, but also their air force housing within a matter of months,' said Loggenberg. ‘There is also a dark cloud over 523 families' Christmas holidays which is traditionally a time for relaxing and spending time with family and friends.'

Meanwhile, the SAAF has, to date, not said a word about the possibility of taking over the contracts of employment of some of Denel's technicians. Loggenberg said that in such an event, a section 197 notice must be issued for the transfer of contracts of employment as well. Section 197 of the Labour Relations Act stipulates that employees' conditions of service and remuneration must be kept on the same level when their contracts of employment are transferred. ‘We are concerned that the air force, to cut on expenses, will wait until all the employees have been retrenched before appointing some of them on a lower salary to do the same work.'

Loggenberg expressed the hope that the formal retrenchment notice will provide more details on the dispute between Denel Aviation/AMG and the air force concerning who will be responsible for paying the personnel's severance packages worth millions of rands should retrenchments be unavoidable. ‘According to the contract the air force will be responsible for paying out severance packages should retrenchments arise out of its contract with Denel Aviation/AMG. However, there is uncertainty over whether or not the air force will be responsible for paying out severance packages after the contract has expired. Denel Aviation/AMG maintains that the air force will still be responsible for paying the severance packages. We are concerned that if Denel Aviation/AMG were to pay the severance packages, more retrenchments would follow at the company. Denel has just gone through a process of restructuring.'

The Department of Defence gave notice on 20 June 2011 that it was going to cancel its contract for aircraft maintenance with Denel Aviation/AMG. Negotiations were held to amend and possibly review the contract, but last month the air force unexpectedly disclosed in a letter that it had reviewed its decision and would not be going ahead with the new contract with Denel Aviation/AMG after 31 March 2013.

Statement issued by Jack Loggenberg, Spokesperson: Solidarity, December 10 2012

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