In a joint statement on March 31, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) have blasted the government over its handling of the crisis in State-owned regional airline SA Express. Their response was to a statement on the airline issued by the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) on March 29.
SA Express is in a business rescue process. Its Business Rescue Practitioners (BRPs) have made a court application for it to be liquidated. In its press release, the DPE admitted that the government could provide no further financial support for the airline.
“We must not mince our words [–] the destruction of SA Express is because government as the shareholder is not committed to saving our State Owned Entities [SOEs], especially those in aviation,” the two unions charged in their joint statement. “It seems what we have been warning about in relation to SOE’s [sic] is coming to fruition. We always suspected that eventually the rampant looting and corruption, which government as the shareholder consistently turned a blind eye to for many years, would be the death knell of our SOE’s [sic] and this has turned out to be true in the case of SA Express, and it seems very likely that SAA and Eskom will also follow suit.”
The unions noted that the BRPs and DPE were blaming each other for the likely liquidation of SA Express. They reported that the BRPs had accused to DPE of not cooperating with them and with failing to give confidence to the airline’s creditors. The unions quoted the DPE’s charge that the BRPs had failed to develop a credible business case for SA Express. “[W]hilst the two sides bickered the eventual stalemate between the two parties worsened the situation and now SA Express is on the verge of liquidation,” asserted Numsa and Sacca.
“The situation is compounded by the fact that most of our members have not received their salaries for the month of March, and they were unable to prepare for the [anti-Covid-19] lockdown,” they highlighted. “They are suffering as a result of the mismanagement of this State Owned Entity. … Workers and their families’ will suffer the most during this Lockdown simply because government, the board and the executives failed in their duties as leaders. All are equally responsible for the destruction of this airline and they do not have the luxury of absolving themselves from the mess they created.”
The unions further attacked the DPE for only now approaching the Unemployment Insurance Fund regarding the plight of the airline’s staff. This had been proposed by the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration back in December during the Section 189 (of the the Labour Relations Act) retrenchments process for SA Express.
“It does seem that the Coronavirus is helping some factions with the state to drive their agenda for the wholesale destruction of our SOE’s [sic] through liquidation,” accused the Numsa and Sacca. “The crisis at SA Express could have been avoided if DPE and Treasury had genuinely supported SOE’s [sic] which is their mandate, but what we have seen, with regards to SAA, and SA Express and even Eskom is that government sabotages efforts to turn them around, because they want to justify the entrance of the private sector in these entities. … The destruction of these entities is part of the legacy of the ANC-led government and they must own it.”