Mango staff’s bank accounts are running on fumes today as the airline did not pay salaries on its designated date, which turns out to be on Friday.
And, according to an internal mail leaked to The Citizen, chief executive William Ndlovu warned staff that payments were uncertain, but hoped that there would be money available before month-end.
“Just like in May,” said Ndlovu in his mail, “we have applied to SAA for assistance. At this point we are not sure when will our application be approved by both SAA and the DPE and the funds disbursed to Mango.”
Ndlovo also noted in the mail that Mango’s fleet now comprises of two aircraft, down from 14 in its heyday, and that there were no funds to cover salaries from revenues earned.
Mango presently employs around 749 staff.
Mango Pilot Association chair Jordan Butler is fuming.
“It is a travesty that the staff are caught in the crossfire of what is clearly a political agenda. Especially after the sacrifices staff have already made this year to keep the business afloat. Staff are worse of this month than in lockdown.”
Here he refers to voluntary salary cuts taken by employees last year to prop up the company during hard times.
As per last year, Butler says that they will go to work regardless, and try and keep Mango going.
“We all love what we do. Pilots are dedicated and want nothing more than to take to the sky and do the job they love. You will be hard pressed to find a more loyal and dedicated employee body.”
But the staff are gatvol, too.
“We are busy looking at strategic solutions in collaboration with the other unions at Mango. There are a few options available to us.” However, he adds, “quiet diplomacy seems to have reached the end of the road.” He would not elaborate on what that meant at this time.
Last month, The Citizen reported on the emotional and psychological damage Mango staff have likely gone through, with psychologist Louisa Niehaus saying that being kept in such limbo, for so long, can lead to depression and other negative states of being.
Last week, Mango unions requested an urgent meeting with Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) Minister Pravin Gordhan to address the ongoing state of nada at the airline. To date they have not received a response.
The DPE also did not respond to Mango at the time of writing this article on whether it condones the kind of treatment that Mango staff are experiencing as representative of the ailing airline’s ultimate shareholder, the State.
It also said nothing about the zero-response received for a meeting with the Minister.
Yet with great fanfare, Gordhan made his SAA equity partner announcement earlier this month, also indicating that Mango and other SAA subsidiaries’ future will be considered during the due diligence process with equity partners, former Comair co-boss Gidon Novick and Harith’s collectively known as the Takatso Consortium.
But presently, the odds seem to show that Mango may not make it past the finishing line of the proposed deal.
SAA also did not revert to The Citizen with any comment by the time of filing this story.
Mango’s Benediction Zubane said that the airline does not anticipate any service disruptions, and that it is “business as usual.”
He refused to comment on the leaked Ndlovu mail, saying that “the communication is an internal matter and confidential and must be treated as such.”
An anonymous Cape Town-based cabin crew member is equally as angry.
“It’s absolutely gut-wrenching that we have an executive who cannot make decisions or do proper business planning.”
The crew member adds that staff are starting to doubt the competence of the airline’s management saying that current “opinion is that the executive has no skills to engage. The shareholder is always to blame for lack of information, however, Mango should communicate what they can to us as staff. They have ignored emails, they have also ignored engagement with the unions”
The crew member adds that staff were provided with creditors letters late last night and hints that many staff members may not be able to go to work.
“We can’t do payments, debit orders are compromised. It cost money to get to work. Crew have written emails to the CEO that they cannot get to work because they do not have money to put fuel in their cars or to purchase food to sustain themselves”
Union calls for CCMA to intervene
The National Transport Movement’s (NTM) Koketso Lekwape said that the union holds a strong view that Mango should utilise whatever means possible to ensure the survival of the business.
He says that attempts to meet with management has not managed to solicit a response, and that the union has filed a mutual dispute at the Commission of Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, scheduled for a hearing on 2 July.
“NTM will not accept the purported intention of the company not to pay workers’ salaries and should it be implemented, NTM will embark on a national protest march.”
Butler goes on to say that “it is beyond fathomable. We as unions have been sent on a wild goose chase trying desperately to find out where Mango fits into the ‘plan’.
“No one will talk to us. We wrote again as a collective of unions and non-unionised staff to the Minister last week and have not received a reply to date. It appears that Mango is being run into the ground on purpose by the DPE so they can validate their deal somehow.
“Government makes the rules about how staff should be treated and as such should set the example. Nowhere in private sector would you be treated like this.”