Over 530 Denel Aviation/AMG specialists will be retrenched after the SA Airforce did not renew a contract with the company, trade union Solidarity said on Tuesday.
"This revelation was made yesterday during the first retrenchment consultation, and it appears that retrenchments at Denel as a result of this decision are unavoidable," Solidarity spokesman Jack Loggenberg said in a statement.
Denel Personnel Solutions (DPS) confirmed on Tuesday that it would proceed with retrenching the 523 aircraft specialists.
"Because DPS has no contract or order cover beyond this date [of the end of the contract] the company has no other option but to proceed with the retrenchment for the entire DPS/AMG workforce," it said in a statement.
"The parties will focus on finding ways to minimise the negative impact of the retrenchments and Denel has committed to assist with seeking job opportunities for the affected employees."
Loggenberg there was a possibility that the SA Air Force would attempt to recruit some of the employees individually after their retrenchment.
"The Air Force probably wants to end the Denel contract because it is very expensive," he said.
"If the Air Force were to take over some of the contracts of employment [before the retrenchments], a section 197 would have to be issued."
According to section 197 of the Labour Relations Act, employees' conditions of service and remuneration must be kept on the same level when their contracts of employment are transferred to another company.
"It is therefore our suspicion that the Air Force, in order to save money, will wait until all the employees have been retrenched before possibly appointing some of them on a lower salary to do the same work," Loggenberg said.
SA National Defence Force spokesman Siphiwe Dlamini was not immediately available for comment.
Loggenberg said Solidarity was trying to get the specialists deployed within other sectors of Denel or with other companies.
"We hope to finalise the consultation process by 14 February in order to comply with the termination of employment date of 31 March," he said.
"None of the employees will be able to leave Denel Aviation/AMG before then, as the company has to fulfil its contractual obligations with the airforce until 31 March."
Solidarity represented 208 specialists out of the 523.