Bureaucratic red tape and frustration forced SAA Chief Executive Vuyani Jarana to quit his job, the National Metalworkers Union of South Africa has said, demanding that his resignation be rescinded.
In a joint statement issued with the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) on Wednesday, the country's largest metalworkers' trade union said that Jarana, who last week announced his plan to step down, did not enjoy the support of the board, and that government was unwilling to fund the national carrier turnaround strategy.
The cash-strapped airline has been battling cash flow challenges, as it attempts to implement a three-year turnaround strategy, which would require a total of R21.7bn.
"Having reflected on what confronts our members and the future of the airline, [we] want to publicly state that we are convinced that what has led to Jarana throwing in the towel, is the result of bureaucratic red-tape and frustrations," the statement said.
Government has over the past few years injected billion into the loss-making airline, but the unions believe that "government’s refusal to fund the turnaround strategy" was also central to Jarana’s unexpected resignation.
According to Jarana’s resignation letter, the majority (60%) of problems at the airline are internal - within the control of management, staff, the board and the shareholder which is government.Market challenges only account for 40% of its challenges.
"Our key demand is that Jarana must come back to work," the unions stated.
'Indefinite industrial action'
If their demand was not met, they added, they might be "left with no option" other than "indefinite industrial action which might not rule out a strike action which will ground all flights".
Jarana, who was appointed in November 2017, is willing to serve a three-month notice period until August 31, 2019. Jarana stressed that even though SAA got a R5bn cash injection from government in 2018/2019, the majority of it was used to pay creditors up until March 2018.
The unions further lay the blame on Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, saying government through Gordhan refused to back the airline's turnaround strategy with necessary funding.
"Even when he secured funding through his own initiatives as a GCEO (Group Chief Executive Officer) complying with his fiduciary duties, he was still not supported. We therefore regard this as nothing but blatant sabotage.
"The unions are calling for an urgent meeting with the President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss its grievances over the matter.
"We reject and refuse the resignation of Jarana and demand that he be reinstated with immediate effect," the statement read.