SAA: NUMSA and SACCA are done talking

Union and association want action regarding funding for the BR plan

NUMSA and SACCA are done talking – We want action regarding funding for the BR plan at SAA

19 September 2020

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the South African (NUMSA) Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) have noted that the Business Rescue Practitioners at South African Airways received a letter from Treasury and the Department of Public Enterprises that government will mobilize funds for the Business Rescue Plan, an amount of R10.3 billion by next week. As a result of the letter the BRPs took the decision yesterday to defer the creditors meeting for another week in order to give DPE and Treasury time to source the funds.

We would not be surprised if the decision to defer the meeting was motivated by the official notice which our attorneys sent to the BRP’s, the office of the Presidency, Parliament, DPE and Treasury. We warned them that if the creditors meeting yesterday had voted for liquidation, we were prepared to launch a High Court application to stop it. NUMSA and SACCA will under no circumstances accept the liquidation of SAA, and for that matter also South African Express, or any other State Owned Entity (SOE).

Just as a Government department or a Municipality cannot be liquidated, NUMSA and SACCA do not accept that a SOE can be liquidated under the artificial guise of these entities being separated into legal entities, despite the fact that government had full control over their demise as a consequence of corruption and mismanagement, and did nothing to stop the rot.  We have noted that DPE has said in the statement that SAA will not be liquidated.

We have noted the assurances given by DPE that funding will be made available, but we hope that this time their words will translate into action and that these are not just empty promises. This is not the first time that DPE and Treasury have missed the deadline for funding to be made available for the Business Rescue plan and we hope that this time the money will actually materialize.

The Business Rescue process has had a devastating impact on our members who have gone without salaries for at least four months. They are suffering extreme financial hardships and their future at SAA remains in limbo because this process has been dragged out unnecessarily by DPE and the BRPs.  Government has also failed to mobilize funding for the Voluntary Severance Packages (VSPs). We want to remind them that labour did not initiate or propose the VSP’s it was proposed by DPE and the minister put us under tremendous pressure to sign for the packages. They had the audacity to paint NUMSA and SACCA as unreasonable for not endorsing the process. Now that they have to pay, they are delaying and coming up with excuses. We reject their excuses, and we are tired of empty words. Our members demand decisive action which reflects a genuine commitment to turning the airline around, which is what DPE claims is its goal.

We picketed outside the corporate offices of SAA in Johannesburg and Cape Town yesterday and we handed a memorandum of demands to the DPE. Included in the list of demands is that a restructured SAA cannot have the current board, which is currently chaired by Thandeka Mgoduso, or current executive team at the helm, because it will fail. The board, and the executive management caused the airline to collapse through corruption and mismanagement, and if they are allowed to pay any role in the restructured airline, it will collapse again.

The next seven days are crucial because if government fails to cough up the money at the next creditors meeting, then it means the winding down or liquidation of SAA is back on the cards.

We are also calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene. He must call the minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan and Tito Mboweni at Treasury to order. It is unfair that workers are being taken from pillar to post and no one is taking responsibility, for this latest failure. When we met with Ramaphosa at Luthuli House with the ANC top six, they gave us the assurance that they supported a restructured SAA, which is free of the baggage of the past, and is viable. The president gave an undertaking to us directly that he supported the turnaround of SAA so we are calling on him to keep his promise. We are done talking, we want action and the president must intervene.

Issued by Phakamile Hlubi-Majola on behalf of NUMSA and SACCA, 18 September 2020