Bidvest’s air services may retrench nearly 3,400 people – 87% of its remaining staff

Business Insider SA
Bidvest air services companies could be retrenchin
  • The air-services companies in the Bidvest group have started retrenchment proceedings covering 87% of their combined staff.
  • Between them, BidAir Services, BidAir Cargo, and Bidvest Premier Lounges could be retrenching 3,395 individuals.
  • The lack of air travel "will persist for some time", and things won't just go back to normal when airports reopen, the companies told staff.
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The air-services companies in the Bidvest stable have started formal proceedings that could see them retrench up to 87% of their remaining staff.

A total of up to 3,395 people employed by the companies BidAir Services, BidAir Cargo, and Bidvest Premier Loungers, are affected.

The companies, wholly owned by the JSE-listed Bidvest, offer various ground, passenger, and cargo services to a long list of airlines at South Africa's biggest airports.

But there is currently little to no business, the company told employees over the weekend.

"This situation will persist for some time even when the airports re-open it is clear services will remain constrained," it said in a letter advising employees of the new round of consultations required before layoffs may start.

If things go according to plan, retrenched employees will be off the payroll by the end of September.

The companies previously retrenched 804 employees, some 17% of the workforce at the time.

Limited domestic air travel, for business purposes only, have resumed under Alert Level 3 rules, with both FlySafair and Mango returning to the air this week. But flights remain few, with Comair (operator of Kulula and British Airways in South Africa) in business rescue, and ongoing uncertainty around SAA's future.

The handful of repatriation flights to foreign destinations have also proven unreliable for service providers who depend on airlines for their revenue.

Various countries have offered all manner of incentives, such as guaranteed free accommodation and food for anyone who is infected with the coronavirus while on holiday, to lure back tourists. To date, those have not met with widespread success, as former travellers apparently eschew air travel entirely where possible.

Bidvest was not available to answer questions, including how long it would take to restart full air-support operations if it retrenches the majority of its staff in that division.

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