South African Airways is not a charity and workers are not volunteers, according to two unions which are still refusing to sign a three-month backpay offer by the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) in full and final settlement of unpaid salaries.
In May 2020, SAA's business rescue practitioners effectively "mothballed" the airline due to lack of funds. This meant no salaries have been paid since. Since the lockdown in April, SAA has not been operational apart from ad hoc cargo and repatriation flights.
As part of completing the rescue process, agreement needs to be reached with employees on the payment of unpaid salaries. The DPE, SAA's shareholder, has indicated in the past that it simply cannot afford to pay employees more than three months of the unpaid salaries. It is due, in part, to the longer than expected time the rescue process is taking, leading to the continuous increase of unpaid salaries.