The National Union of Metalworkers of South African (Numsa) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) said they had lost faith in the department of public enterprises, accusing it of sanctioning a business rescue plan for troubled national carrier South African Airways (SAA) which would lead to 3 700 job losses.
In a statement late on Thursday, the unions said they were considering legal action to interdict voting on the plan, which they said had been developed without consulting labour as required by law.
The government placed SAA under business rescue last December. On Tuesday the business rescue practitioners published a plan putting the state’s bill for settling the airline's liabilities and funding its restructuring at R26.7-billion (about US$1.5-billion). Under the plan, only 1 000 of SAA's more than 4 600 domestic employees would be retained.
In its preliminary response, the department of public enterprises said it was concerned that the plan might not be adequate, adding that the government would support a proposal which resulted in a viable, sustainable and competitive airline that provided integrated domestic, regional and international flight services.
On Thursday night, Numsa and SACCA said in spite of the government's public pronouncements that the liquidation of SAA was not on the cards, the unions had learned that the department of public enterprise had given the go ahead for a plan for a new airline.
"The level of dishonesty from the ministry and the manner in which they have conducted and concluded this entire process, leaves much to be desired. It is not an overstatement to say that both the BRPs (business rescue practitioners) and DPE (department of public enterprises) have failed the country and workers dismally," they said.
The unions said it would never have been necessary to place SAA under business rescue had the government acted with integrity and competence in its management of it and other struggling state-owned enterprises.
"We have accordingly lost all trust in DPE and more particularly in Minister (Pravin) Gordhan, as an honest and competent partner in our endeavour to save SAA," they said.
"How can DPE in all good conscience throw 3,700 workers out into the street, when we have such high unemployment and poverty? As such we are considering our current legal options."