SAA business rescue practitioners give pilots' union 48-hour notice of lock-out

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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
  • SAA's business rescue practitioners have given members of the SAA Pilots Association 48-hour notice of a lock-out which will be enforced from Friday.
  • The lockout comes after negotiations on the new agreement with the union stalled, and all internal dispute processes had been exhausted.
  • According to the business rescue practitioners, the new agreement is needed to ensure a sustainable airline.


SAA's business rescue practitioners have issued a notice of a lock-out to the SAA Pilots Association (SAAPA), effective from Friday.

The business rescue practitioners on Wednesday issued a statement indicating that the lock-out had come about as negotiations on the new agreement with the union had stalled, and all internal dispute processes had been exhausted. The matter was also referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration on 30 October.

A lock-out takes place when employer and employees cannot resolve a labour dispute. It means that employees are not able to render their services or get paid. It is enforced until employees accept the demands of the employer.

The lock-out will apply to all 383 of SAAPA's members from 12:00 on Friday 18 December, until the union accepts a set of demands laid out by the business practitioners, the statement read.

According to the business rescue practitioners, on 7 September 2020, SAA communicated certain demands to SAAPA and its members – it detailed new terms and conditions of employment and new salary scales for all pilots required to restructure SAA, in line with the S189A notice issued on the 18 July 2020.  

"The new terms and conditions and salary scales are essential for the new competitive and successful SAA, which will initially require 88 pilots, to become cost effective and more productive.

"The new proposed terms include hours of work and rest which are aligned to the Civil Aviation Authority and will provide SAA a better chance at being a sustainable airline, once it has completed the business rescue process," said the business recue practitioners."

As per the new agreement, salaries of all pilots will be reduced by 50%. The per diem allocation (allowance per day) will also be reduced from $155 (about R2 300) per day, depending on the destination, to $70 (about R1 000) per day – regardless of the destination.

In addition to having to agree to the new terms, SAAPA was required to agree to the termination of the Regulating Agreement. According to the business rescue practitioners, the Regulating Agreement does not comply with the Companies Act, the Public Finance Management Act, nor the supply chain policy of SAA regarding the procurement process of hotels for pilots.

"The new agreement is intended to remove the largesse of the Regulating Agreement, because the Regulating Agreement confers very extensive and lavish benefits on SAA's pilots," the business rescue practitioners said.

"The parties subsequently engaged in further extensive negotiations regarding the termination of the Regulating Agreement and all other collective agreements concluded between SAA and SAAPA.

According to the business rescue practitioners, SAA has in the past tried to address issues regarding the Regulating Agreement with SAAPA, without success. "In November 2019, after consulting with the Department of Public Enterprises, SAA launched an application in the Labour Court and in the High Court to declare the Regulating Agreement unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid and permitting the Agreement to be terminated on reasonable notice. These applications are still pending," the statement read.

"We agree that the Regulating Agreement, which we have asked to be terminated is unlawful and unconstitutional and as a consequence of seniority provisions, indirectly and unfairly discriminates against pilots on grounds of race and gender," the business rescue practitioners said.

They added that the new terms and conditions were "fair and competitive" for a regional, African airline.

"In fact, SAA has among the highest cost base in terms of pilots salaries, meal allowances, leave and sick pay and travel rebate benefits internationally. This cannot continue if the business rescue of SAA is to succeed." 

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