More unions at SAA agree to severance packages as vote on airline's future approaches

A South African Airways aircraft on the apron of Frankfurt Airport in 2018.
A South African Airways aircraft on the apron of Frankfurt Airport in 2018.
Silas Stein/picture alliance via Getty Images
  • The department of public enterprises says all labour organisations, apart from the SAA Pilots Association, have agreed to agreed to accept voluntary severance packages.
  • SAA went into business rescue in December last year following years of losses and repeated state bailouts.
  • The flag carrier's creditors are set to vote on its long-delayed business rescue plan next week.


With under a week to go before flag carrier SAA's creditors vote on its long-delayed business rescue plan, more unions have accepted that the airline can approach their members for voluntary severance packages.

According to the department of public enterprises, most unions at the airline now say that they have no objection to it "offering to individual employees a voluntary severance package".  

SAA went into business rescue in December last year following years of losses and repeated state bailouts. The airline's creditors will finally vote to accept or reject the business rescue plan drawn up by its business rescue practitioners on Wednesday, 14 July. A vote in favour of the business rescue plan by 75% of the voting interests is required to carry the decision. 

The DPE said in a statement that following on from its latest meeting with unions, 1 000 SAA employees will be retained, and around 2 700 SAA employees will be retrenched.

"[They] will be able to access the VSPs as soon as a business rescue plan for SAA is endorsed by a creditors vote."

About R2.27 billion has been put aside to fund the severance packages, according to the business rescue plan. 

The agreement with unions "brings important momentum towards the adoption of a business rescue plan for SAA by creditors," said the DPE. 

Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, spokesperson for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, confirmed that the union and the South African Cabin Crew Association had advised their members that if they wish to accept the severance packages and sign as individuals, they may do so. 

She said Numsa and SACCA had also managed to reduce the number of workers that are going to be retrenched. In meetings with the DPE, it was decided that 1 000 employees would be placed on a training lay off scheme.

Hlubi-Majola said they will receive 75% of their salaries via the Sector Education and Training Authority [SETAs].

SAA, meanwhile, said it would contribute R4 650 towards their pension, UIF and company medical aid. 

The department of public enterprises added that, while most unions at the airline have agreed to the severance packages, the position of the SAA Pilots Association "remains unclear at this stage".

"SAAPA has indicated that they do not oppose the outcome of [the] meeting but the union is seeking to embark on a parallel process through which they want to consult the business rescue practitioners for SAA about the severance packages". 

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