SAA pilots say they are left with no option but to strike

The pilots want to be retrenched by no later than 15 April, and have their remuneration paid.

SAA pilots say they've been left with no option but to go on strike. Pilots belonging to the SAA Pilot Association (SAAPA) have been locked out of the workplace since December last year.

The pilots also claimed that they had not been paid salaries for almost a year. The lockout followed failed negotiations with the airline's business rescue practitioners over new employment agreements.

The association represents the majority of pilots at SAA.

SAAPA has given the airline 48-hour notice prior to the start of the strike. If no compromise is reached, it will be the first time in the union's history that it will strike.

“Saapa pilots have endured and withstood over three months of lock out and were last paid a year ago,” says SAAPA chairman Grant Back. “The company has now realised it actually needs the highly skilled pilots it has locked out and is attempting to force a selected few back to work, while comically attempting to blame the pilots for the decision to lock them out.”

SAA, which has been in business rescue since December 2019, has received R7.8 billion of the R10.5 billion required from the government for the fulfilment of the rescue business plan.

This amount covers payments to employees, payments to post-commencement creditors and unflown ticket liabilities.
SAA wants to nullify the regulatory agreement (RA) which gives SAAPA members privileges over pilots belonging to other unions.

The long-term sustainability of the airline is dependent on the termination of the RA, says SAA’s business rescue practitioners Siviwe Dongwana and Les Matuson.

SAAPA has demanded that SAA pilots who formed part of the Section 189(3) notice dated July 18 last year be retrenched by no later than April 15. The union has also demanded that the airline pay the pilots their remuneration upon retrenchment.