Unions threaten to stage ‘the mother of all strikes’ at SAA if their demands are ignored

Cape Town -180419- SAA chief executive Vuyani Jarana answering the MPS questions today in Parliament Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency/ANA

Workers unions at the South African Airways (SAA) said on Friday the state-owned airline had requested one week to deal with their demands of reinstating Vuyani Jarana as group chief executive and a complete overhaul of the board.

This as the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) on Thursday met the SAA board over the workers’ grievances following Jarana’s resignation two weeks ago.

In a statement, the unions said their key demand was that Jarana must be reinstated immediately for having produced a turnaround strategy which won the support of the government, the board, and the unions.

SAA’s cabin crew members are represented in SACCA while Numsa members work at SAA Technical and at the airports in South Africa.

They said that though the board had informed the public that it had government’s backing on the turnaround strategy, SAA board chairperson JB Magwaza allegedly told them that there was no funding for the turnaround strategy and no funding capital for the airline.

The unions are also demanding an explanation about the ties to the Rothschild family.

“The Rothschild’s are interfering the same way that the Gupta family was interfering in SOE’s and they are doing it for their own selfish and greedy purposes. It is clear to us that the agenda here is to collapse SAA in order to privatise it for the benefit of the Rothschilds.

“SAA is a strategic state-owned asset and we will do everything in our power to save it from privatisation.”

The unions reiterated the demand for Kingston, Thandeka Mgoduso, and Peter Tshievhe to step down from the board.

They accused Mgoduso of selling off SAA “piece by piece to cronies of the ANC elite, which in this case are the Rothschilds”.

The unions were critical of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s “reckless” public statement that he would not put a cent of his own money towards the SAA turnaround strategy.

Another demand the unions made was that President Cyril Ramaphosa must intervene and engage his ministers.

“The board has requested an extra seven days in order to deal with the demands we have tabled in our memorandums, and we have agreed to grant them extra time,” they said.

“Whilst they deliberate, we will continue to mobilise on the ground in preparation for the possibility of the mother of all strikes in aviation if this board continues to ignore the demand to take the necessary steps to save SAA.”

In his resignation letter, Jarana cited the airline’s mounting debt due to uncertainty about funding and lack of support from government as a shareholder in implementing the airline’s long-term turnaround strategy.

On Friday last week, SAA announced long-standing executive Zuks Ramasia as the interim group chief executive and Adam Vos as the new CEO of SAA Technical. Ramasia, who was previously general manager for operations at SAA, began her term as CEO on Monday.

Members of the unions picketed and protested at all the country’s major airports to protest against what they called a “myriad of issues” at SAA and SAA Technical.

They initially gave the SAA board 48 hours to rescind their decision to accept Jarana’s resignation and reinstate him with immediate effect. SAA was not immediately available for comment.

African News Agency / The Citizen