Three unions representing more than 60% of employees at South African Airways are calling for an investigation into the work done by the troubled airline’s business rescue practitioners since they started in December last year.

The National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa), the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) and the SAA Pilots Association (Saapa) have also called for the practitioners not to continue with an appeal against a recent Labour Court ruling that their retrenchment process was unfair. They also want the practitioners to minimise the millions of rands the unions claim are being spent on consultants and legal services.

The 86-year old airline hasn’t made a profit in about eight years and has cost the government almost R30 billion in bailouts over the past decade. At the end of 2019 the state agreed to place it into business rescue in the wake of a crippling eight day pay strike by Numsa that cost the airline about R416 million.

Numsa, Sacca and Saapa, in a joint statement, called on SAA’s executives and senior management to offer to reduce their salaries in a bid to try and save the airline, in the light of what the unions refer to as “years of mismanagement”.

Some of the major unions have already offered that their members’ salaries be cut by up to 49% for two months on a sliding scale in an effort to “buy time” to restructure or “right size” the airline. The three unions claim such a pay cuts would save about R82 million, but have been rejected by the BRPs.

Although all staff salaries have been paid in full until April, it is as yet unclear whether there will be enough money to pay salaries in May, the business rescue practitioners have said. All staff have been on unpaid leave of absence since 1 May.

The National Transport Movement (NTM), one of the other unions represented at SAA, expressed its concern with what it calls “the evident disconnect” between the Pravin Gordhan-led Department of Public Enterprise and the practitioners on the matter of the airline.

NTM president Mashudu Raphetha called on the BRPs to publish their business rescue plan as a matter of urgency at the end of May, and for all parties to work together “to avert a calamity”.

The DPE and the practitioners were not able to provide immediate comment. 


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