SAA staff call on government to honour promise, Newsline

JOHANNESBURG – SAA workers have called on the government to make good on its promise to provide funding of R10.5billion to prevent the liquidation of the state-owned airline as its future remains in limbo.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) on Saturday said it was up to the government whether SAA survived or crashed.

Sacca president Zazi Nsibanyoni-Mugambi said they were done with talks and wanted action regarding the funding of SAA’s business rescue plan.

“The next seven days are crucial, because if the government fails to cough up the money at the next creditors’ meeting, then it means the winding down or liquidation of SAA is back on the cards,” Nsibanyoni-Mugambi said.

Numsa and Sacca members picketed outside the corporate offices of SAA in Johannesburg and Cape Town on Friday, demanding the resignation of the board of directors.

The unions also sent the government an official notice through their attorneys threatening to go to court if the creditors vote for the liquidation of SAA.

SAA needs at least R10bn in short-, medium- and long-term funding to restart its operations.

The government has also failed to mobilise R2.27bn to fund the voluntary severance packages (VSPs) for at least 3000 workers.

SAA’s business rescue practitioners (BRPs) on Friday deferred the creditors’ meeting for another week after the government promised to come up with the required funding in order to save the airline.

BRP Siviwe Dongwana said the government had on Friday reassured them that it would fund the rescue process, although no timelines were provided.

Dongwana said the government’s letter clearly stated that there was a Cabinet commitment, with the support of the National Treasury, to provide funding to SAA to the tune of R10.5bn.

“If the funds flow early enough, then they eliminate the need for a wind-down or a liquidation,” Dongwana said.

The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) said it would present an Adjustment Appropriation Bill in Parliament to reprioritise funds to help implement SAA’s business rescue plan.

The DPE also said it would request lending institutions to finance the SAA restructuring process and honour commitments to pay for VSPs and retrenchments. “The national carrier will not be liquidated,” it said.

Nsibanyoni-Mugambi said they were hoping that the assurances given by the DPE would translate into action and not empty promises.

“This is not the first time that DPE and National Treasury have missed the deadline for funding to be made available for the business rescue plan,” she said. “We hope that this time the money will actually materialise.”

BUSINESS REPORT