SOME WORK, OTHERS STRIKE: Air hostesses from South African Airways walk past colleagues on strike at OR Tambo Airport in Kempton Park on Friday. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

THE National Transport Movement (NTM) ended a 28-day strike at troubled state-owned carrier South African Airways (SAA) on Friday and said it planned to seek an order from the Labour Court this week to compel SAA to grant it recognition rights.

NTM had widely expected to be granted recognition and organisational rights at the airline after a verification process facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) was completed on Thursday last week.

"Our next step is to go to court and to get an order from the judge. The judge must review the information in the report and make out an order that NTM be granted organisational rights, especially in the light that SAA has recognised Solidarity," NTM general secretary Craig Nte said in an interview on Friday.

According to the CCMA verification outcome report, following the audit of the NTM’s membership, the union fell short of the 30% required for the unit to be a part of the bargaining forum.

SAA spokesman Tlali Tlali said in a statement that the report did not come as a surprise as "we have all along been indicating that claims by the union were grossly exaggerated".

"However, we have taken note that the report has indicated that NTM is not too far from reaching the requisite numbers to enable them to be recognised," Mr Tlali said.

"Partial recognition was never an option and for that reason, we would like to restate a view we expressed before — NTM must satisfy all requirements, including securing the required numbers so that they can enjoy full and proper recognition," Mr Tlali said.

The union needed a minimum of 1,216 members out of the 4,054 workers to be "sufficiently representative" at the airline’s bargaining unit, the CCMA report said.

Mr Nte said the commissioner had erred in the report as NTM had verified 1,204 members, equivalent to 29.69% — which was 30% when it was "rounded up". The NTM also disputed the exclusion of 26 of its members’ forms by the commissioner.

Mr Nte explained that in terms of the agreement between SAA and NTM for the verification process, a February 4 cutoff date for the submission of membership forms had been set.

The forms of the 26 members in question were handed to the commissioner after this date, but Mr Nte argued that the cutoff date was meant to stop NTM from recruiting during the verification process, which would have been disruptive and could have compromised the process.

The late forms should have been accepted because these forms were for members signed up in 2012 and whose forms had gone missing after the union had handed them over to SAA for verification.

In November a CCMA commissioner recommended to SAA that the airline grant the union basic recognition rights as it had accorded recognition to Solidarity, which had less than a quarter of NTM’s members.

However, in the terms of reference of the November report, NTM agreed that its right to organise and collective bargaining rights would be contingent on achieving a total of 30% of total employees in the bargaining unit.

According to the November report, the NTM had 1,111 members, Aviation Industry Workers Union had 1,262 members, the South African Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu) had 1,647 members and 1,157 employees were not unionised.

NTM split from Satawu in 2012 over strong differences in how to combat what the union viewed as corruption within the businesses its members were employed by.