Union slams Myeni for attack on SAA pilots

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JOHANNESBURG - The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) on Saturday condemned the statement by South African Airways (SAA) board chairwoman Dudu Myeni blaming the airline’s dire financial woes on legitimate benefits accruing to its pilots.

Fedusa’s response comes in the wake of a letter Myeni wrote to Parliament in which she blamed the pilots’ benefits for plunging SAA into financial doldrums.

Fedusa general secretary Dennis George said Myeni’s attack on the pilots’ benefits was unethical and showed her lack of vision as the leader of a vital state-owned enterprise.

“Moreover, it is an absolute insult to the collective bargaining process that unfolds annually between the parties and smacks of arrogance when a diversion is being created to redirect attention from Ms Myeni,” George said.

Fedusa would lobby Parliament for Myeni to appear before the public enterprises portfolio committee.

“Fedusa considers the statement to be both irresponsible and unjustifiable as the salaries extended to pilots at SAA remains totally on par with industry standards and completely in line with competitive operating airlines in South Africa.

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“Ms Myeni’s statement has been received with utter dismay and shock, which Fedusa can only [attribute] to blame shifting in order to justify the R5.6 billion loss recorded by SAA following its recent submission to Parliament on 15 September 2016, after much threats and lambasting by Finance Minister [Pravin] Gordhan and opposition parties for initially neglecting to present financial statements for the past two financial years,” he said.

Fedusa would not hesitate to continue exposing undue practices at the airline following previous correspondence and engagements with former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene, Gordhan, Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on the complete lack of good corporate governance at SAA.

George said he remained unapologetic that Myeni should refocus her attention on ensuring an effective turnaround strategy was implemented and that the board remained focused and engaged on restoring the airline to profitability.

The South African Airways Pilots Association (SAAPA), an affiliate of Fedusa, pointed out that attacking the pilots’ legitimate benefits would not work as a strategy to turnaround SAA.

Pilots shouldered a huge responsibility and were committed to all safety standards in chartering domestic and foreign passengers in the ever increasing air travel market. If government was unwilling to pay SAA pilots market-related salaries and offer them decent working conditions, they would be left with no choice but to leave for other airlines, George said.

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