Unions threaten to ground SAA flights if CEO Jarana leaves

SAA CEO Vuyani Jarana
SAA CEO Vuyani Jarana

The South African Airways boss who resigned this weekend did so because he had no support when it came to turning around the embattled state-owned enterprise.

This is according to the biggest metal workers trade union, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA and the SA Cabin Crew Association, who have called for the reinstatement of SAA group chief executive Vuyani Jarana with immediate effect.

The unions have threatened to ground all SAA’s flights.

In a joint statement the two organisations lambasted the government for its lack of support for Jarana, which they said led to his resignation. They called for an urgent meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa to strategise on how Jarana could be reinstated.

“The government must give him [Jarana] the necessary support; meaning that he must be given a board that is invested and has an interest in the survival of SAA,” they said.

The call for Jarana’s return by the two organisations came after he resigned on the weekend, citing the airline’s mounting debt and lack of support from the government.

“We are convinced that Jarana did not resign because he no longer has an interest in turning around the airline, but because he has not been receiving the necessary support from the government.”

Read: Things looking up for SAA as it flies out of storm of corruption

Jarana, who was appointed as chief executive in 2017, faced the daunting task of financially reviving the airline.

In his resignation letter, he said when he was appointed, SAA faced a debt of R9.2 billion that was maturing on November 28 2017. The airline’s turnaround plan had not yet been implemented.

The organisations believed sabotage was one of the reasons that pressured Jarana to quit.

“Numsa and Sacca, having reflected on what confronts our members and the future of the airline, want to publicly state that we are convinced that what has led to Jarana throwing in the towel, is the result of bureaucratic red-tape and frustration.”

Numsa and Sacca have threatened to go on strike if Jarana is not reinstated.

“Considering what we are confronted with at SAA, Numsa and Sacca might be left with no option but to organise our members for an indefinite industrial action which might not rule out a strike action which will ground all flights. Our key demand is that Jarana must come back to work.”

According to Numsa and Sacca, they want to have Jarana reinstated “because we know that the next executive officer who will replace Jarana, his or her primary mandate will be to destroy the job security of all workers”.

They said his resignation could affect baggage handlers, ramp agents, technicians, cleaners, security, cabin crew, pilots, check-in agents, corporate employees as well as catering staff, whom they have encouraged to unite.

When contacted for comment, Jarana said he could not address any media enquiries. His last day at SAA is July 31.

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