SA Express looks to cut jobs to be more competitive

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An SA Express board committee has approved the move to cut jobs at the struggling airline following a request made by acting boss Siza Mzimela.

By the end of January the airline had a headcount of 822 employees and 10 aircraft.

Mzimela presented a confidential report, dated January 31, at the remuneration and human resources transformation committee meeting at the airline’s headquarters in Kempton Park, Gauteng.

In the report, seen by City Press, she sought approval to proceed with downsizing staff at the struggling airline. According to the minutes of the same meeting the committee resolved to approve the strategy on January 31.

SA Express company secretary Maryna Gie signed the resolution that approved the “right-sizing initiative” on February 13.

“SA Express is not competitive in the market place and not optimally operating in regard to its income generation. To ensure operational efficiency, improved service delivery and profitability, redundancies and duplication must be identified and addressed,” Mzimela said.

Read: SA Express: Experts say it is ‘dead in the water’ but new chair insists airline will be profitable in 18 months

The airline had 10 aircraft with a projection to have 15 aircraft by the end of this month. Mzimela said the structure was not aligned to the number of aircraft per employee. She said the airline needed to be an aggressive competitor.

“The current benchmarks against our competitor [Airlink] indicate we are overstaffed in that our ratio of employee per aircraft is 56 compared with our competitor, Airlink, at 24. We strive to have our ratio to achieve the benchmark of 25 employees per aircraft,” Mzimela said.

She said the strategic thrust of the airline was to be the most efficient, effective and sustainable airline and this required an optimum fit-for-purpose organisational structure in which human capital was competent, capable, efficient and highly motivated.

Part of cutting jobs included closing stations at places where SA Express did not fly, such as George, Richards Bay and Durban.

She said employees would be offered voluntary severance packages but the focus would be to keep skilled, competent and performing employees.

If this failed, the airline contemplated terminating employees in the corporate services department due to operational requirements.

Consultations were to be made with unions and the process would be facilitated by the Conciliation for Commission, Mediation and Arbitration.

Another option was to freeze filling vacancies other than those pre-approved critical positions.

Mzimela said they were awaiting the finalisation of the review of the headcount. “Once concluded, we will advise on the financial implications,” she said.

SA Express’ acting general manager for human capital, Thuli Mpshe, said that the airline was yet to decide on job cuts.

“The airline has not yet taken a definitive decision on its staffing levels. Should it do that, SA Express will commit itself fully to all due labour relations processes,” she said.

SA Express said its employee numbers were “still geared for the 22 aircraft which the carrier used to operate although (it) was targeting to have a maximum of 15 aircraft in service by the end of April 2019”.

“However, the reality is that we now have fewer aircraft in operation since we relaunched our operations last year … which means that our staffing levels are currently not in line with our operations.”


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