SAA defends interim CEO, warns against strikes

The board of South African Airways has backed its new interim CEO Zukisa Ramasia after the South African Airways Pilots Association criticised her appointment and threatened to go on strike. 

Ramasia was appointed as the flag carrier's interim head earlier this month after Vuyani Jarana stepped down at the beginning of June. In a leaked resignation letter, Jarana cited a lack of financial support from government for his turnaround strategy as one of the reasons he chose to leave. 

In a statement on Monday, the association argued that Ramasia was not the right person for the job and threatened to embark on a strike in a bid to "force necessary changes".

Organised labour at the national carrier has reacted wholly negatively to the resignation of Jarana.

While the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa and the South African Cabin Crew Association have stopped at demanding Jarana be reinstated, SAAPA took the step of criticising Ramasia directly.

The association said it would seek the views of its members on the appropriate action over the matter.

The SAA board, in a statement released on Tuesday, said SAAPA’s remarks could hurt the airline further as the aviation industry was "extremely sensitive to negative sentiment, especially around business continuity". 

"Whilst the comments are professionally disparaging against Ms Ramasia, on close examination, they appear to suggest a vote of no confidence against the board. This is an attempt to usurp the board’s authority and responsibility and must be rejected," the statement read. 

The board said Ramasia is the most senior and experienced executive at the airline and, in the past, had been a natural choice to act on occasions when Jarana was away. 

"The position adopted by SAAPA gives rise to the suspicion that they represent an anti-transformation agenda, and this easily finds expression, even under transitional arrangements when SAA is moving with speed to find a permanent CEO," the statement said.

The board said SAA had too many challenges to preoccupy itself with infighting and repairing reputational damage. It appealed to all labour formations to desist from making threats of embarking on industrial action.

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