Comair hits back strongly at Department of Labour

Johannesburg - Sunday 18 November 2007. Following continued harassment of the company by the Department of Labour, JSE listed Comair Limited has today hit back strongly at the government department. This follows an allegation in the press that Comair did not hire black cabin crew because they cannot swim. "The allegations are not only blatantly false but also defamatory," said Erik Venter, Joint CEO of Comair. "We have over 850 black staff representing more than half of our team at Comair." Comair was in fact the first airline to hire black cabin crew over 30 years ago. "What makes the allegations even more bizarre is the fact that we are the only airline to run a swimming training programme for our cabin crew recruits. The ability to swim and as well as life-saving skills are mandated as safety requirements by the Civil Aviation Authority, and are necessary for our cabin crew to be granted accreditation by the CAA."

Following these and other blatantly incorrect and defamatory statements by the Department of Labour, Comair has issued the department with a Letter of Demand instructing them to withdraw press statements that assume Comair to be in breach of the Employment Equity Act and claim that Comair is being ordered to pay a fine despite the fact that Comair has not had an opportunity to respond to the underlying accusations. Statements by the Minister of Labour are unlawful, interfere with the administration of justice and accordingly constitute contempt of court. Comair is also seeking a restraining order on the Department from making any further incorrect or defamatory statements while the matter is sub judice.

Comair has endured continued frustration in attempting to submit employment equity reports to the Department. An example of the inefficiency experienced was when Comair attempted to e-mail its Employment Equity report to a gazetted e-mail address only to be told later by the department that the address was not valid.

Sibongiseni Ntuli, Comair Director and Chairman of the National Empowerment Fund added, "Ultimately the proof is in the numbers. In the past 5 years Comair has progressed from 29% to 53% black employees and also over 80% of its staff are from designated groups. Comair is also the only private airline with a cadet pilot training program specifically for black candidates. The company has also recruited over 100 candidates from the Harambe community project and trained them into the Contact Centre, cabin crew and airport customer service roles. We're really proud of what's been achieved in transforming and developing our team. Our success as a business has been driven by the diverse and talented group of people that we have." Comair is also Black Empowered with around 25% of its shares held by black shareholders.

"We will not be bullied by an inefficient and ineffective government department. There is no doubt still a massive amount that needs to be done to achieve transformation in South Africa and this will continue to be a priority in our business for many years to come," concluded Venter.