Velvet Sky: bosses ask staff to take unpaid leave

2012-03-17 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The beleaguered low-cost airline, Velvet Sky, is asking its staff to take unpaid leave until June 30. Its planes last flew in February when problems arose with unpaid service providers.

CEO Dhevin Pillay told our sister paper Beeld this week that management was working on a restructuring plan to get the airline airborne again.

During that discussion Pillay said nothing about the lay-offs — only that decisions about the way forward would be announced on Thursday.

Beeld has since learned that requesting staff to take unpaid leave was one of those decisions. Pillay has not answered his cellphone since Tuesday. Operations chief Gary Webb was also not available to comment yesterday. Putting staff on unpaid leave rather than retrenching them could be an attempt to buy time to oppose a liquidation bid by BP Southern Africa, the airline’s fuel supplier, which it reportedly owes R29 million.

Management has made various promises over the last few weeks about when its planes would be in the air again, none of them fulfilled.

On Tuesday Pillay criticised state airlines for the “unnatural pressure” they placed on private airlines. “How can our airlines compete with an airline that can ask its shareholder [the state] for a R6 billion injection?”

Beeld understands that Velvet Sky’s bank accounts remain frozen.

There is also no confirmation that the airline will compensate ticket holders for flights that were cancelled, despite saying repeatedly that it would do so.

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