Johannesburg – As political parties remain at opposite ends on what the future holds for embattled SAA, pressure is mounting on the government to intervene as the national carrier’s business rescue partners (BRPs) forge ahead with the retrenchment process of almost 5000 employees.
Cabinet was set to announce its decision after receiving an updated report on the current state of SAA from Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Monday.
The cash-strapped airline has already sent correspondence to unions as part of the collective agreement proposal to slash 4700 jobs by the end of this month.
While the DA has called for the immediate liquidation of the airline, the EFF has called for the BRPs to be granted the R10 billion they requested from the government to continue with the business rescue process.
UDM deputy president Nqabayomzi Kwankwa slammed the BRPs’ retrenchment plans and accused them of blackmailing the government and taxpayers.
Kwankwa said SAA’s business rescue had to be done comprehensively by the BRPs and not in a piecemeal fashion as the rescue practitioners have repeatedly extended their deadlines to publicise their rescue plan.
“For instance, the nation had been informed that SAA had planned to sell assets to fund the proposed retrenchment process, but one wonders at the move to do so before the rescue plan was in place,” he said.
Some of the unions organising within SAA have openly expressed their rejection of the retrenchment plans and blamed the BRPs for having failed to consult them.
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In a joint statement after receiving correspondence on the mass retrenchments, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) said they would not be party to the section 189A process.
“We have been on record questioning the relevance, experience and the expertise of this team of BRPs because for more than three months they have been tasked with one thing, which was to devise a business rescue plan, and they have failed dismally at great cost to the workers and the taxpayer,” the unions said.
Numsa and Sacca said they were aware that SAA would not survive in its current form and that options had to be explored to ensure its survival instead of slashing jobs or liquidating it.
“Numsa and Sacca believe that SAA remains a strategic asset and despite all the adverse conditions it is still capable of being rescued in some form and it should not simply contribute to the very high unemployment rate. All attempts will be made to minimise the negative impact on workers,” the unions said, adding that they were currently in talks with the government in search of an alternative intervention.
“Numsa and Sacca are considering their options in dealing with this unacceptable state of affairs, but in the interim all members are advised to ignore the content of the collective agreement and allow those who are serious about the future of SAA time to further engage in constructive discussions,” they said.
The IFP, meanwhile, reiterated that “the rescuing of the SAA was a mere vanity project anchored in an ideological correctness to appease politicians and not in business sense and financial stability”.
SA Express employees in the meantime have allegedly entered the lockdown without their salaries after the airline failed to pay them for March, a result unions blamed on the poor management of the state-owned entity.
By Siviwe Feketha