Unions praise latest R3.5bn SAA bailout, warn of thousands of jobs lost if airline folds


Two of the key unions at SAA have welcomed the fact that the struggling state-owned airline has secured 3.5bn in funding from the Development Bank of Southern Africa, saying if the national flag carrier had been allowed to collapse some 10 000 workers would have suffered.

"The funding has been criticised by some because of the many bailouts which SAA has received in the past. We do not want an SAA which is dependent on bailouts. We want an SAA which is viable," said the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the South African Cabin Crew Association in a joint statement on Monday. 

On Tuesday last week the airline's joint business rescue practitioners, Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, announced that passengers could continue flying SAA now that the required funding has been secured. "Stakeholders of the airline should now have comfort that the rescue process is on a significantly sounder footing, and that passengers and travel agencies and airline partners may continue to book air travel on SAA with confidence."

The two unions said on Monday it would have been "extremely reckless and negligent" for the state to allow SAA or any other state-owned entity to collapse.

"Workers should not be expected to suffer job losses because of the corruption, mismanagement and looting of the board and the executive management of SAA,' they said.

The unions reiterated that the business rescue practitioners should investigate the airline's procurement contracts, where they say significant savings can be had. The unions said they would be meeting the practitioners again later in the week. 

Getting funds, saving cash

The airline announced last week that it was cancelling dozens of local and international flights for February as it seeks to cut costs and conserve cash. "Flight demand has been scrutinised to ensure SAA is running efficient flights," it said in a statement on Thursday. "To this end, SAA will therefore cancel and consolidate selected scheduled flights where there is low demand based on current forward bookings for the month of February."

President Cyril Ramaphosa, meanwhile, has signed off on an official probe into SAA which will cover, among other things, allegations of corruption related to the procurement of, or contracting for Airbus aircraft from 2002 onward. The probe will be conducted by the Special Investigations Unit.

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