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SAA unions seek order for wage payments to be made within seven days

Case expected to be heard next week.
Numsa and Sacca want the remaining five months’ unpaid salaries to be settled later in 2021 or for the money owed to employees to be turned into equity. Image: Guillem Sartorio, Bloomberg

Workers at South African Airways (SAA) have not been paid since March 2020, meaning that by the end of this month they will have been without salaries or benefits for 10 months.

Two labour unions – the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) – now want the the Labour Court to compel the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) and the airline’s rescue practitioners to pay over three months’ deferred salaries to their members.

The DPE and the rescue practitioners struck the same controversial deal with four other unions and three non-unionised workers formations at the airline in December.

Numsa and Sacca rejected the deal at the time saying that SAA employees should be paid their salaries in full, as stipulated in the airline’s rescue plan.

The two unions have suggested that the outstanding balance of five months’ pay be delayed to later in 2021 or that the money owed to employees be turned into equity.

They also want the court to force the DPE and rescue practitioners Siviwe Dongwana and Les Matuson to pay their members a lump sum comprising an agreed-to 5.9 % increase backdated to April 2020 as well as an equivalent pro rata contribution towards a 13th cheque.

Rights waived under duress

In court papers, Sacca president Zazi Nsibanyoni-Mugambi notes that the rescue practitioners extended the same offer to individual members of Numsa and Sacca.

Given that the unions’ members had been without salaries for months and were therefore in dire financial circumstances, some decided to accept the offer despite Numsa and Sacca’s rejection of it.

“Individual members are suffering on a daily basis increasing financial hardship to the extent that they are compelled (in absolute desperation and effectively under duress), to waiver their rights and enter into individual settlement agreements with the [DPE and the rescue practitioners],” says Nsibanyoni-Mugambi.

“The conduct of the [DPE and the rescue practitioners] was even more reprehensible given the time period of the year,” she adds, referring to the Christmas/New Year period.

“The [DPE and the rescue practitioners] quite simply embarked on a strategy that is akin to extortion.”

‘Unfair, unlawful’

Nsibanyoni-Mugambi adds that the failure of the rescue practitioners and the DPE to pay Sacca and Numsa members the same funds paid to members of other unions should be declared unfair and unlawful.

The non-payments to Numsa and Sacca “is a blatant abuse of power on the parts of the [DPE and the rescue practitioners] and effectively amounts to unlawful extortion and constitutes a clear instance of discrimination contrary to the provisions of the BCEA [Basic Conditions of Employment Act]”.

Nsibanyoni-Mugambi adds that the DPE and rescue practitioners should make the payments to Numsa and Sacca members within seven days.

Considering that the DPE has disbursed R1.5 billion of the R10.5 billion allocated to SAA in October’s mid-term budget policy statement, Numsa and Sacca say the airline is in a financial position to pay the full outstanding salaries.

Read: This is where SAA got its R10.5bn from

Instead of paying employees their full salaries, Nsibanyoni-Mugambi argues that the DPE ring fenced R600 million of the R1.5 billion to be used for Mango, an SAA subsidiary that is not under business rescue.

SAA has not been operational since April apart from conducting repatriation flights. These have since also been halted.

The parties that accepted the deal in December include the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), the National Transport Movement (NTM), Solidarity and the Aviation Union of SA as well as three SAA worker formations (covering non-unionised management and non-management as well as wider management).

Read: Labour groups accept airline pay settlement

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COMMENTS   15

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If the liquidators had closed SAA down like they should have this little problem would not have come up. The dust would have settled and the employees would have moved on with their lives.

It’s called political influence, by the inept and corrupt ANC.

The same goes for SAPO and all the other SOEs.

Precisely … no one wants to stand up and make a decision without consulting the cadre clique. Who are also clueless.

Yep should’ve closed it long ago and auctioned everything.

If they didn’t strike for a more than inflation wage increase while everybody knew SAA was technicaly bankrupt,
things might have looked very different now.
But the unions will never acknowledge this offcourse.

If pigs had wings they would fly….
Keep the beast alive and will continue to drag out every issue to the Nth degree.

The “rescue” boytjies must be loving this…….

Everyday a few ronts in the bank! I am sure there are a few lawyers hovering like vultures…

and the fat much and praised Pravin Gordhan in his Hugo Boss suit slyly chuckling in the background; blowing SA’s vaccine money into the air; cunningly screwing the workers. The wonderful ANC / Communist Party.

The cadre employed employees must get fully paid for doing what????? – they must come to reality – the party is over. saa was never the most profitable soe if at all, but currently it is a non-operative entity with employees doing nothing but wants full salary – a mirror image of 90% of the rest of the soe’s

forget about the rescue plan – it can not be rescued anymore – even if it starts tomorrow with national / international flights it will never become a profitable entity – not in the next 150 years to come

I am not completely familiar with business rescue practices so please correct me if I’m wrong. But it seems to me that the business rescue practitioners are bending backwards to please the state by pretending this farce of a company can be rescued. They must know full well that the only logical way forward must be to liquidate SAA and then in the future if the government truly wants to waste our tax money on an airline then they can start a new company.

I see no logical reason to try and keep SAA doors open when it wasn’t even close to profitable before the pandemic and as long as the pandemic is here there is no chance in hell that it would become profitable.

These practitioners should be fired and should never be allowed again to practice because they are simply performing a money grab by delaying the inevitable and raking in the fees.

The rescue practitioners mandate is to avoid cross guarantee defaults from triggering. Gov can’t let SAA fail so get ready for SAA #7 if need be.

Ha Ha Ha, there is no money left, so you can order all you want. Why don’t the unions admit that they were the exact cause of this.

Who would want to revive a monument to incompetence? The ANC, SAA is something they can relate to.

The make believe dance of the make believe vampires. This parrot is no more – it has expired- finito – kaputt !

I smell another bailout coming in, Tax Payers brace your selves for Expropriation Through Inflation.

Those money printing machines are going to work overtime or as long as Eskom can keep supplying power to them.

There we thought that a Tax Revolt by tax payers might solve the problem, but the useless ANC Supporters who are employed at SOE will be doing it for us.

End of comments.

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