(Adds SAA comments on the job cuts)
JOHANNESBURG, June 11 (Reuters) - South African Airways’ (SAA) catering arm plans to lay off 118 workers, the union representing them said, as the struggling airline implements a turnaround strategy to restore profitability.
SAA, which has not generated a profit since 2011, survives on state guarantees and is regularly cited by credit ratings agencies as a drain on the government purse.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), which represents the workers, said it had received notice of the layoffs from the catering arm, called Air Chefs, but said it wanted to deal directly with SAA on the planned job cuts.
“Air Chefs intends to retrench 118 workers out of a workforce of about 1,200 people,” the union, one of South Africa’s largest, said in a statement late on Sunday.
“We shall do all we can to defend workers and their jobs at Air Chefs,” the union said.
“NUMSA demands that any discussion regarding retrenchments should take place within the SAA group which is the mother company. Our members demand that any restructuring must take place at a group level and should not be decentralised.”
NUMSA said it was engaging with SAA Chief Executive Vuyani Jarana on the planned job cuts.
The airline’s spokesman Tlali Tlali confirmed that SAA would meet labour unions from June 19 to discuss the planned job cuts in talks facilitated by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration.
“This does not mean that the company has made a decision to lay off a specific number of employees indicated by the company to the labour unions,” Tlali said in an emailed response.
“If anything, the purpose of this consultation is explore avenues that could make it possible for the employer to avert laying off staff. Retrenchment is an option of last resort when all other avenues have been fully explored.” (Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo Editing by James Macharia and Adrian Croft)