SAA staff back Solidarity's business rescue application for ailing airline
SAA staff affiliated to the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) have thrown their weight behind putting the airline into business rescue.
“Numsa and Sacca have decided to support Solidarity’s application for business rescue. The reason for that is we want to be involved in the business rescue process so our plans to save the airline are considered and implemented,” the unions said in a joint statement.
This followed the unions' meeting with Solidarity on Thursday.
The unions said their efforts to engage with the SAA board and the department of public enterprises had thus far been unsuccessful, alleging that the board and department were blaming the downfall of the airline on the recent eight-day strike by unions.
“They were only concerned with apportioning blame for the strike to us as unions, instead of engaging us on solutions to turn around the airline. They also continued to frustrate the implementation of the turnaround plan,” the unions' statement read.
Public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan announced that the embattled airline would undergo business rescue from Thursday and receive R2bn from taxpayers.
“It must be clear this is not a bailout,” he said. “This is the provision of financial assistance to facilitate a radical restructure of the airline.”
Business rescue, Gordhan said, would restore the confidence of the airline and help safeguard it.
On Wednesday evening, in a leaked letter, secretary of cabinet Cassius Lubisi said President Cyril Ramaphosa supported SAA going into urgent voluntary business rescue due to the “dire situation” facing the national carrier.
Two weeks ago, Solidarity said it had filed a court application for business rescue for the airline and it believed it was through its efforts that the government had come to the party.
While claiming credit for the decision to place the ailing state-owned airline into business rescue, the union accused the government of wanting more control over a process it initially opposed.
The union said during a meeting it held with SAA, Gordhan, finance minister Tito Mboweni and the deputy judge president of the South Gauteng high court, the airline undertook to ratify a resolution that the company voluntarily be placed into business rescue, failing which Solidarity's business rescue application would be heard on December 13.
Numsa and Sacca lambasted government for only now heeding the call to put the airline into business rescue.
“As Numsa and Sacca we sent a letter on Tuesday to the department of public enterprises and the presidency, warning that failure to support the business rescue application by Solidarity would have dire consequences for the airline, but also for individual board members.
"We warned that if they did not respond positively to Solidarity’s business rescue application, SAA board members were exposing themselves to personal liability and were risking a charge of reckless trading,” the unions said.
“We have noted their decision to suddenly undergo voluntary business rescue, after receiving our letter. However, we view their belated attempt at voluntary business rescue as insincere, and an attempt to retain control by the board. This is why we are concerned,” the unions said.
The unions said they had on Thursday written a letter to the airline and the department of public enterprises asking to be involved in choosing a competent and independent business rescue practitioner.