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Parties differ on SAA future

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Some of the unions organising within SAA have openly expressed their rejection of the retrenchment plans

AS TRADE unions scale up the fight against plans by the embattled SA Airways’ business rescue practitioners (BRPs) to lay off  4 700 employees, political parties continue to differ over the future of the national carrier.

The cash-strapped airline has already sent the correspondence to unions organising within SAA as part of the collective agreement proposal to slash 4 700 jobs by the end of this month.

Some of the unions organising within SAA have openly expressed their rejection of the retrenchment plans and blamed BRPs of having failed to consult them on their business rescue plan.

Cabinet was set to announce its decision after receiving an updated report on the current state of SAA from Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan at its meeting yesterday.

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 leader Nqabayomzi Kwankwa has slammed the BRPs retrenchment plans and accused them of blackmailing the government and taxpayers.

Kwankwa said the SAA’s business rescue had to be done comprehensively and not in the piecemeal fashion by the BRPs, who 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 is in place,” he said.

In a joint statement after receiving correspondence on the mass retrenchments, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the South African 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 3 months, they have been tasked with one thing, which is to devise a business rescue plan, and they have failed dismally to fulfil this at great cost to 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 minimize the negative impact on workers,”the unions said.

The unions pointed out that they were currently in engagement 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 and the country time to further engage in constructive discussions,” they said.

The IFP has reiterated that “the rescuing of the SAA is a mere vanity project anchored in ideological correctness to appease politicians and not in business sense and financial stability.”

This comes as SA Express employees have been forced to enter the lockdown without their salaries after the airline failed to pay them for March, which Numsa and SACCA blamed on the poor management of the SOE.