Workers belonging to the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) march. Picture: REUTERS
Workers belonging to the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) march. Picture: REUTERS

THE South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu) has won R28m in back pay in a five-year legal battle against South African Airways (SAA).

The union said on Tuesday that the legal victory meant 55 former employees of SAA  would receive salaries for almost 100 months.

Satawu said it and the Aviation Union of SA (Ausa) had taken SAA to court on behalf of 55 employees outsourced in 2007.

The Labour Court ordered back pay of their salaries for almost 100 months.

Satawu spokeswoman Zanele Sabele said on Tuesday that the court ruling had in fact been handed down at the end of December, when it was then expected SAA would make the payments. However, discussions between the unions and the airline on this issue continued, she said.

In 2007 SAA transferred the employees to facilities management company Drake Scull FM, which retrenched the employees when the contract expired.

SAA said on Tuesday it was incorrect of Satawu to say the Labour Court ruled in their favour as the matter was settled in December to avoid protracted litigation.

"It is important to note that the employees agreed to accept payment of 60% of their claims before the Labour Court after their initial demand of 75% payment of their claims. This shows that the employees were not certain of their prospects of success (in court)," spokesman Tlali Tlali said.

SAA maintained it had good prospect of success in any legal battle, but it had engaged in the settlement negotiations initiated by the unions.