DA welcomes labour court ruling on NUM and SACCA application

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the Labour Court ruling which rejects the application made by the National Union of Metalworkers (NUM) and the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA), to stop the South African Airways (SAA) Business Rescue Practitioners, Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana, from retrenching staff.

There is general consensus that SAA is overstaffed by at least 30% and with passengers abandoning SAA in droves, the overstaffing is probably much, much higher. There is absolutely no way that SAA can be rescued, if at all, without massive staff retrenchments.

The unions behaviour does not indicate their care of the welfare of workers, otherwise they would allow the SAA business rescue process to continue to save the airline. It was absurd for NUM and SACCA to have been under the impression that taxpayer bailouts would continue to be used to pour money into SAA to pay the bloated staff compliment.

The unions and Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, must now remove themselves from this process and allow the SAA business rescue practitioners to continue with their work unhindered.

Aviation industry services should be declared “essential”

I have written to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA)’s Essential Services Committee, asking for certain aviation industry services to be declared “essential”. Employees engaged in essential services are prohibited from exercising their constitutional right to strike.

Section 213 of the Labour Relations Act, 1995,  defines an “essential service” as one which, if interrupted, would endanger the life, personal safety or health of the whole or any part of the population.

The DA’s call follows reckless statements at the weekend by the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA), whose members have embarked on strike action against South African Airways (SAA).

The trade union’s spokesperson, Phakamile Hlubi-Majola, warned passengers not to fly on SAA, threatening them that their safety could not be guaranteed and that they were “putting their lives at risk”. She commented that “learners in the technical environment and other staff are being used to fly aircraft without having the requisite experience”.

This bullying brinkmanship is typical of NUMSA. The union is a destructive, intransigent menace to society and the economy. However, given NUMSA’shistory of violence and intimidation during industrial action, its threats should be treated with the utmost seriousness.

Both NUMSA and the South African Cabin Crew Association (SACCA) have indicated that they plan to bring the whole aviation sector to its knees by initiating a secondary strike that would involve the Civil Aviation Authority, the Airports Company South Africa, Mango Airlines, Safair, SA Express and Comair.

The regulation and control of air traffic in South Africa has already been declared an essential service (in 1997). It could be argued that since airports in South Africa have been designated as national key points under the National Key Points Act of 1980  (which means that any damage to, or disruption and immobilization of these facilities may harm the country) it would be in the public interest to ban all strike action at airports and indeed any national key points.

At the very least, pilots and all technical ground- and air staff who are in any way responsible for passengers’ health and safety should be regarded as performing an essential service.  Given the strict security provisions at airports, and the fact that many of the functions rendered by aviation logistics companies require specialised employees, it is difficult to find replacement labour in the event of a strike. This underscores the case for designating these services as essential in the aviation sector.

NUMSA has held SAA and the country’s air travellers to ransom for too long. It is time for decisive action against this economic wrecking ball. A designation of certain aviation industry services as essential would be a good first step in the right direction.

Myeni failed to hand over reports on SAA corruption to Parliament

Yesterday, I was informed by the Chairperson of the SAA Board, Dudu Myeni, after the disastrous meeting of Parliament’s Finance Committee, that she had in her possession copies of forensic investigation reports into SAA, yet failed to table them before the committee.
The DA will today write to the Minister of Finance, Malusi Gigaba, and his Deputy, to demand that the investigation reports be tabled in Parliament immediately.
There can be no further delays particularly if the reports confirm the SA Cabin Crew Association’s (SACCA) allegations of widespread corruption at the national carrier.
For 7 months the DA has been requesting these reports. However, National Treasury has refused to hand them over. Last month, the Deputy Minister of Finance, Sfiso Buthelezi, promised to release these reports to the finance committee, he has failed to make good on this promise.
Given the accusations of corruption that Myeni has recently alluded to – which coincidently was highlighted by SACCA immediately after Myeni appeared before Parliament – the DA finds it surprising that Myeni did not inform the finance committee that she had, apparently in her briefcase, investigation reports which expose the corruption she referred to.
These reports include, but are not limited to:

  • An investigation into the sale of surplus materials such as rotables and consumables;
  • An investigation into SAA Technical with respect to Commercial aircraft leases between SAA and Mango;
  • Investigations into various allegations against primarily SAA’s former CEO, Mr Khaya Ngqula; and
  • An investigation into the alleged irregular awarding of a tender for dry snacks by Air Chefs.

If these accusations of corruption are true and are not just tactics to divert attention away from the failures of Myeni in her role as SAA Board Chair, they must be fully interrogated by Parliament.
SAA is on the brink of bankruptcy, with the South African taxpayer very close to having to meet the guarantees of some R 9,0 billion to pay off maturing loans to SAA. If this were to happen the consequences for South Africa’s sovereign ratings will be dire.
There is no longer a choice – SAA must be placed under Business Rescue now before it is too late.