SAFTU rejects with contempt the SAA business rescue practitioner’s attempt to blackmail workers

SAFTU rejects with contempt the SAA business rescue practitioner’s attempt to blackmail workers

The South African Federation of Trade Unions – SAFTU condemns in the strongest terms possible the sheer blackmail of the so-called business rescue practitioner directed at the South African Airways (SAA) workers.

The so-called rescue practitioner is negotiating with a gun pointed at the necks of all the nearly 10 000 workers employed by SAA. He is telling workers to accept that all of them must accept that they must be slaughtered and take retrenchment packages and join the 10.5 million South Africans who are unemployed, and if they do not agree they will liquidate the airline and close it down!

SAFTU from the beginning of the process suspected that the so-called business rescue practitioner has been given a mandate from above, to collapse SAA in order to open the way for its privatisation. Everything that has happened since the unilateral appointment of the so-called business rescue practitioner has deepened this suspicion. These are the reasons why we suspect that the so-called business rescue practitioner is nothing but a privatisation officer:

1. The unilateral appointment of Mr Les Matuson and Mr Siviwe Dongwana as Business Rescue Practitioners was announced in the first week of December 2019 shortly after trade unions the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) and our very own affiliate the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) had successfully negotiated a wage agreement which included conditions about rooting out corruption, and dealing decisively once and for all with the corrupt evergreen contracts which were chocking the airline. For years workers at SAA had raised concerns about how these bloated contracts were wreaking havoc with the airlines balance sheet, and numerous forensic reports had exposed the role that various executives had played in looting this SOE. The board which had been appointed by government the shareholder, did not lift a finger to intervene and it was only when workers, courageously embarked on strike action, that they were able to impose these necessary changes. A Task Team made up of unions and SAA Executives would go through every contract of the airline and cancel, re-negotiate or insource contracts in order to save the airline billions in wasted revenue. The contracts alone were reported to cost SAA a whopping 25 billion per annum! The decision to place the organization under Voluntary Business Rescue shortly after the conclusion of this progressive agreement, was in fact to sabotage the process of rooting out corruption, and at the same time, it was designed to ensure that the neo-liberal agenda of the ANC government is implemented, which is the sale and privatization of this strategic entity, as well as all other SOE’s as well.

2. SAA paid workers R1500 of their monthly salaries yesterday as part of a clear strategy to force them to accept retrenchments. This we condemn in the strongest terms. The ANC which told the country that it has instructed government to protect the key state assets like SAA can’t continue to be silent when private sector bosses slaughter workers in broad day light.

3. Unions who had worked very well with the previous CEO of SAA, Mr Vuyani Jarana to develop a real rescue package that would not have involved any bailouts, job losses and or privatisation were deliberately sidelined in the appointment the business rescue practitioner – why?

4. To date (24 April 2020) the BRP’s have failed to table a business rescue plan for SAA.

5. It was shocking that at the beginning of February they unilaterally closed down all domestic routes except the line between Johannesburg and Cape Town. Further, they closed many routes to the region and to the African continent. They created such a climate of start and stop that this uncertainty created a situation that many clients abandoned SAA leaving many domestic flights to be handled by international airlines and handing over even more of our domestic air space to global competitors, something that other countries, would never dream of doing! As a result, the airlines losses dramatically increased. This was part of the calculated plan to discredit the SAA before selling it cheaply to the highest bidder.

6. These so-called ‘rescue’ practitioners continue to demand billions from government, without having any clear plan. It is clear that their mandate from the onset was to liquidate SAA and, at the same time, they have pulled a gun on workers and are threatening to liquidate the whole institution unless the workers agree to dodgy retrenchment packages.

SAFTU bemoans this assault and drive towards the privatisation of SAA, and SA Express. This is worsened by the fact that this brutal attack is being driven under the cover of the COVID – 19 Lockdown. Workers cannot even lift a finger to protest the destruction of this very important national asset. The destruction of SAA and SA Express is an indictment against this ANC government which, for more than two decades, has worked actively to destroy and erode our SOE’s with the goal of handing them over to the private sector. They pay lip service to workers and their families about job creation and economic growth.

SAFTU rejects privatization of SOE’s because they have a strategic role to play in growing the economy and they will assist us to re-industrialize particularly post-coronavirus. It is short sighted and foolish of this government to allow SAA to collapse when we should all be working towards saving each and every job. SAA contributes over 34 000 jobs along the value chain, its subsidiaries SAA Technical, Air chefs and Mango will also suffer if it collapses and the impact on our economy will be devastating.

We call on the ANC that has issued public statement categorically stating that the airline must be retain in public hands to intervene and protect SAA and SA Express. Those driving the programme to privatise must be recalled including the Minister of Public Enterprises, Minister of Finance and the so called business practitioners.

The statement issued by South African Federation of Trade Unions

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