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SAA pilots threaten legal action against BRPs

Saapa has accused the SAA business rescue practitioners of unfair labour practices and favouritism.
Image: Guillem Sartorio/Bloomberg

As South African Airways (SAA) prepares to exit its business rescue proceedings, the SAA Pilots’ Association (Saapa) has threatened to take legal action against the airline’s business rescue practitioners (BRPs) for alleged “favouritism”and unfair labour practices.

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Saapa has referred the rescue practitioners and the airline to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for allegedly contravening sections of the Labour Relations Act and “infringing [on the] freedom of association of Saapa members”.

The rescue practitioners have denied the allegations, saying its conduct against Saapa members has been lawful. Saapa declined to comment further on the matter. 

Saapa members have been locked out of the airline since December, pending the cancellation of the contentious Regulatory Agreement. They have also not received a salary since March last year, when the airline ceased operations. 

Saapa members have been barred from the airline’s premises due to the lockout and have been unable to access SAA simulator facilities to qualify for ad-hoc work with other companies to recoup lost income. Simulator facilities artificially create an in-flight environment for training purposes and maintaining proficiency in handling airplane operations. 

Non-Saapa members have been permitted to use these facilities (paid for by third parties) while the airline remains under care and maintenance, according to the association. 

In a letter addressed to BRPs Siviwe Dongwana and Les Matuson, dated February 24 that Moneyweb has seen, Saapa chief negotiator Glen Smith accuses the rescuers of discriminating against Saapa members based on their trade union membership. 

The association wants the airline to lift the lockout to allow its members to access the simulator facilities, at the company’s cost, for the next six months. This would allow Saapa members to re-qualify for their pilot’s licences and to perform their pilot proficiency checks, recency and licence renewals. 

Smith accused Dongwana and Matuson of punishing Saapa members in favour of pilots who joined rival union, the National Transport Movement (NTM) before the lookout, saying it’s a “textbook instance of trade union sweetheart-ism”.

According to Smith, the BRPs made a commitment to pay all pilots their 13th cheques (which were due at the end of April 2019) as soon as funds were available as per the company’s business rescue plan. The payments have not been disbursed to Saapa members and pilots who resigned from Saapa after the lockout, despite the airline receiving R10.5 billion required for SAA’s business rescue, Smith says. NTM pilots have however “unconditionally” been paid their 13th cheques.

Read: Government pays, settles R267 million demand for SAA guaranteed letters of credit

The airline has withheld the payments allegedly due to Saapa members, subject to the association’s members signing a settlement agreement that was offered to the pilots in January. 

Smith says NTM members who are pilots were offered the same settlement, which includes three months back pay, without any conditions attached. Additionally, all pilots who were not Saapa members and who elected to take the voluntary severance packages were afforded the opportunity to take up the back pay salary agreement on an individual basis. 

The settlement agreement was offered on an individual basis to members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca), however Smith accuses the rescue practitioners of rejecting Saapa’s request for the same offer to be made to its members but including pilots who are members of NTM. 

Read: SAA: Numsa and Sacca backpay application dismissed

“The only inference that can be drawn from this [discrimination] is that current and former Saapa members who remain employed by SAA are being punished for their membership of Saapa. The company and the BRPs’ conduct is actuated by improper or illegitimate motives, unfair, unlawful and actionable at the instance of Saapa,” Smith says. 

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They should sue them for Billions !!!

I’m bored of these whingers. If they worked for a real business instead of a play-play airline backed by the endless largesse of the taxpayer, they’d have been retrenched with the shirts on their backs as the airline went bankrupt, like happened to thousands of other pilots world-wide.

Everyone knows what SAA was – a taxpayer-funded vanity project. The public knows it. The people who work there cannot have been unaware of it, especially not the pilots. They chose to continue being carried by the taxpayer, and they are really nothing more than civil servants moaning about their lot in life from a golden cloud.

If they popped across to the private sector, they could see what happens when a real business goes belly-up. But while they’re on the taxpayer’s dollar at the bottom of a R70bn hole, they should put a sock in their pitiful whining.

Easy tiger, I think you will find that the pilots consistently pointed out the SAA / ANC “management’s” profligate, corrupt and unsustainable ways. As now, there were your sort of rebuttals (overpaid, white etc etc) and the more reasonable sounding ones suggesting that something would be done to improve matters. Like now, it never was.

Like many other airlines covid devastation came out of thin air; maybe you think they should have predicted that too?

How about another strike just to make absolutely sure there are no customers left.
But then you are already at home so nobody will notice.
I get furious every time the unions organize a strike for a ridiculous increase in a country where about a third of the people are without a job, instead of being very gratefull to have a job.

Nein, I think SAA should be liquidated and all legal liabilities to employees satisfied; simple stuff. Current dishonesty, prevarication and money wasting is just prolonging the pain.

Don’t shoot the messengers.

You get unions, and unions….Do yourself a favour and go into the conduct of the different trade unions. I think you’ll agree afterwards some are ethical and responsible while others are beyond salvation in their greed, conduct and violent natures.
For instance, in the case of SAA, see if you can find ANYTHING constructive that the Cabin Crew Ass has contributed…..

SAA and Mango will be boycotted by us tax payers untill they drop like dead birds!

End of comments.

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