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Unions support South African Airways pilot strike amidst allegations of gross misconduct

The South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and have noted the announcement made by the South African Airways Pilots Association (SAAPA) of their intention to embark on strike action at South African Airways (SAA).

Christopher Shabangu, SACCA Deputy President, and Irvin Jim, NUMSA General Secretary, issued the following joint statement:

Chief among their grievances is the lack of leadership at an executive level at SAA and that the airline needs to urgently take the appropriate action necessary to ensure a proper turnaround of SAA and to return it to sustainability.

NUMSA and SACCA support the demands of the pilots. Together NUMSA and SACCA have been leading a campaign at SAA and SAAT to end corruption and to force the board and management to take the necessary steps to #SaveSAA and make it profitable once again. Our members have held regular marches, protests and pickets to highlight the management crisis at SAA. Furthermore, we tried to intervene when the former Group CEO Vuyani Jarana resigned out of frustration because government the shareholder refused to fund the turnaround strategy which he had developed, and which was designed to return the airline to profitability.

In addition to the joint action taken on by both unions, NUMSA has gone to court numerous times to force the airline board and management to implement the findings of forensic investigations which expose corruption at the highest levels at the airline. To date, the airline has ignored the court order because there are numerous executives and managers who continue to work for SAA, despite the cloud of corruption allegations hanging over their heads.

SACCA and NUMSA have been calling for the SAA board to be scrapped and all board members to be removed because they have not acted in the interests of the airline. We have consistently made a call that the board must be reconstituted and represented by representatives of labour, business, and the government. This way labour can play an oversight role and ensure good governance and transparency.

We have written numerous times to Minister Pravin Gordhan asking him to dissolve the current board of SAA as it is not delivering and it is also a hindrance rather than a solution to the problems of the airline.

ALLEGATIONS OF GROSS MISCONDUCT OF SAA BOARD

SACCA and NUMSA recently had to deal with another issue which we believe constitute gross misconduct by some members of the board. We wrote to the board of SAA on the 25th of September 2019 asking them to act on the recent internal audit findings which implicated some members of the board that may have awarded a tender to a consulting company in the name of 21st Century Consulting irregularly. The audit report made the following findings:

  1. That the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) regulations were not followed.
  2. There was a disregard for corporate governance guidelines.
  3. Flaunting of procurement processes.
  4. Clear and unlawful overreach/interference by a director as envisioned by the Companies Act.

In the letter we once again made the demand for the removal of Thandeka Mgoduso who is currently the Acting Board Chairperson of SAA. According to the report she was instrumental in awarding the tender to this consulting company. The board has not responded to our request.

We have raised the issue of Ms. Mgoduso’s interference in the day to day operations of the airline. We also raised this issue with the minister of Public Enterprise Pravin Gordhan. We gave the board two days to respond to our demands to have her removed and they have not responded to our request.

It is our view that SAA can be profitable once again. Its problems are as a result of mismanagement and corruption by executives. This is why as unions we reject any calls for SAA to be sold or privatized as the solution to its financial woes. Privatization will result in massive job losses for workers, and in higher costs for the consumer.

We would, therefore, like to make it clear that, while we are preparing our own plans to force the minister to dissolve the current board and to immediately remove those board members and executives who are implicated in the irregular awarding of this tender, we will support any efforts, including the strike action called for by SAPA in order to protect this asset and root out corruption.

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