Opinion

Minister Gigaba, you no longer deserve to wear that SAA pilot's uniform

Blaming the airline's financial woes on the pilots' salary scheme is pathetic scapegoating

20 August 2017 - 00:00 By CHRISTINE STEGMANN

When minister Malusi Gigaba - who was responsible for public enterprises at the time - wore our SAA pilot's uniform in parliament on February 13 2014, we were proud and hoped it meant that he was publicly showing respect for the integrity and values that underpin it.
With his unwarranted attack on us, he has not only disrespected the loyal pilots of SAA, who cumulatively have over 12,000 years of committed service to the airline, he has also disrespected our airline and all of its loyal employees. We wear our uniforms with pride. They represent excellence, professionalism, dedication and service - the values of our once proud national carrier.
Pilots at SAA work incredibly hard for the privilege of wearing an SAA uniform. It signifies to the public that we have the skills to safely and efficiently operate complex, high-performance multimillion-rand aircraft, safeguarding the lives of our passengers for every moment that they travel on an SAA aircraft.The fact of the matter is that Gigaba's comments and conduct in the past few weeks have been completely devoid of the truth, and display a lack of respect for SAA pilots.
His ill-informed attacks on the pilots of SAA are plain to see for what they are: either a concerning ignorance of the very real problems at SAA or a desperate and cowardly attempt to make us the scapegoats of the financial woes and mismanagement.Contrary to the minister's absurd claims, the most recent study demonstrated that the salaries of SAA's pilots were actually 19.5% below the benchmark.
The SAA pilots are not blind to the financial conditions of our employer, either. Being aware of SAA's financial predicament (which only worsens month by month), in wage negotiations during 2015 and in 2016, inflation-related increases only were accepted.
Since then, for over 17 months, the pilots have not received an annual increase to salaries or allowances.
No matter how hard he tries, minister Gigaba simply can't dress up the staggering reality that even if the SAA pilots' salaries were reduced to zero, and even if all pilots worked for free for the entire year, the airline would still operate at a significant loss.

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