Durban – The South African Airways Pilots Association (SAAPA) has committed rallying behind the ailing state airline as it prepares for fresh restart after years of malfeasance.
This week the National Treasury agreed that the government would support and source funding for a business rescue plan for South African Airways (SAA), which will result in the emergence of a new viable, sustainable and competitive national airline.
This was seen as a last resort to save the airline as it has relied on a government bailout for a prolonged period.
The SAAPA welcomed the rescue plan and hoped it would restore the airline and become profitable again.
According to the rescue plan, it was projected that an amount of R10.1 billion would be required to fund the rescue plan, clean up and stabilise the balance sheet of SAA. However, the Democratic Alliance has filed an urgent interdict application at the North Gauteng Division of the High Court to stop the bailout.
Grant Back, SAAPA Chairperson the investment of taxpayer funds during this difficult economic environment was not a sacrifice they took lightly.
The association was criticized by the department for squeezing the “last resources” out of SAA by refusing to accept Voluntary Severance Packages.
SAAPA represents 600 SAA pilots which make up 13% of SAA staff, and consume 45% of the wage bill. The lowest of SAA’s 170 senior pilots earn R3.6-million a year, excluding perks and incentives, said the department.
Back said it has always been SAAPA’s priority to save jobs, to reduce reliance on the fiscus and ultimately, to save the airline.
“The funding of the business rescue plan and the appointment of new management and board are equally crucial to this new era in the life of our 86 year old airline. To justify the public investment in SAA, the new fit for purpose management team must prioritise sustainability, profitability, good governance, transparency and accountability.
“SAAPA has attempted to proactively engage and collaborate throughout the business rescue process. We are ready to share our ideas and plans with the new management team and look forward to discussions in the best interest of the airline, the fiscus and the employees of SAA. We will continue to engage with all willing stakeholders to create a robust business model and an improved plan for the future of SAA,” he added.
Geordin Hill-Lewis, DA spokesperson on finance issues said their application seeks to interdict the use of Section 16 of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), which gives Finance Minister Tito Mboweni “emergency” powers to spend money not budgeted for in “exceptional” and “unforeseen” circumstances.
“Yet another public bailout of SAA does not meet the definition of an unforeseen emergency. To use this as a pretext to bail out SAA again would be unlawful.
“We asked the Minister to confirm in writing that he would not invoke Section 16. He did not reply, and so now we are approaching the court.
“Mboweni has until today (Sunday) to file an answering affidavit.
“If Mboweni has already transferred funds to SAA, based on his letter of support, the DA’s application seeks to interdict the use of those funds pending the outcome of the court application,” he said.