Gordhan's department, two unions accept proposal on SAA salary payments, says Solidarity

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A view of SAA airplanes at Cape Town International Airport on February 18, 2020.
A view of SAA airplanes at Cape Town International Airport on February 18, 2020.
Gallo Images/Jacques Stander
  • Solidarity's aviation and defence organiser Derek Mans said the union's proposal was accepted by the Department of Public Enterprises.
  • The National Unions of Metalworkers of SA and the SA Cabin Crew Association blamed the department for employees being without full salaries.
  • The Department of Public Enterprises has said that it would not comment on public statements by unions on the matter.



Union Solidarity said in a statement on Friday afternoon that the Department of Public Enterprises had accepted its proposal regarding the salary deferment at South African Airways, following a week of harsh public statements between the department and unions.

At the heart of the issue is an allocation of R1.5 billion for SAA and an assumption among staff and unions that the allocation would go towards the payment of salaries for employees for a duration of eight months.

The National Unions of Metalworkers of South Africa and the South African Cabin Crew Association previously blamed the Department of Public Enterprises for employees having to go without full salaries at the troubled airline.

Solidarity said by reaching an agreement with the Department of Public Enterprises, the national carrier could likely avoid further legal action as the business rescue process continues.

Solidarity's aviation and defence organiser Derek Mans said the union's proposal was accepted by the Department of Public Enterprises as well as by two other trade unions, namely the Aviation Union of Southern Africa and the National Transport Movement.

"Solidarity's position was if the department continues to provide employees with three months [of] salaries without the go-ahead of the business rescue practitioners, it would be done illegally because business rescue practitioners are de facto leaders of the process in terms of the Companies Act and have more power than the shareholders," said Mans.

Mans said Solidarity proposed to the department in a meeting on Friday morning that they pay the three months' salaries for the December period and defer the rest in terms of the waterfall clause of the business rescue, and any outstanding monies due to employees should be determined by the business rescue practitioners.

"According to Solidarity's proposal, which will serve as a draft agreement, three months' salary must be paid out. However, this does not serve as a final settlement and outstanding payments are deferred until the business rescue process has been finalised," Mans said.

Public Enterprises spokesperson Richard Mantu did not respond immediately to requests for comment by Fin24, but said on Thursday that the Department of Public Enterprises would not comment on public statements by unions on the matter.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the Department of Public Enterprises accused unions at the national carrier of colluding to undermine the business rescue process by rejecting salary deferments that were agreed upon last week.

On Wednesday SACCA President Zazi Nsibanyoni-Mugambi said the union took exception to the department’s statement, saying it amounted to blackmailing workers into signing an agreement that they believed to be unacceptable.

On Thursday, meanwhile, NUMSA secretary general Irvin Jim said workers had considered marching to demand payment from the airline’s business rescue practitioners to demand that SAA pay them money from the BRPs, when in fact, the money had not been allocated to them.

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