Avatar photo

By Marizka Coetzer

Journalist


Iata exposes public enterprises dept’s ‘lie’ about SAA pilots’ pay

The department had claimed that SAA pilots were the second-highest paid in the world, but the body representing airlines says it is not privy to airlines’ salaries and has not made any such comparison.


The department of public enterprises appears to have been caught out by the International Air Transport Association
(Iata) in what seems to be a barefaced lie about how much SAA pilots have been earning.

In a statement yesterday, Iata distanced itself from “the false assertion in a South Africa’s department of public  enterprises news release today that it had compared SAA pilots’ remuneration with those at other airlines”.

“As an industry body, Iata represents, leads and serves the industry on matters of common interest, but it may not become involved in individual airlines’ commercial or employment affairs,” the organisation stated.

“For this reason, Iata is not privy to such details and has not conducted a comparison of SAA pilots’ remuneration or provided any such information to the department of public enterprises.”

The organisation represents about 290 airlines.

The offending quote reads: “SAA pilots, which according to the International Air Transport Association, are the second most highly paid pilots in the world, are not the only pilots to undergo salary cuts as the rest of the global industry has experienced a reduction in salaries and benefits,” according to SAnews.gov.za.

It was just more evidence the department was sucking numbers out of its thumb, said Captain Grant Back of the  South African Airways Pilots’ Association, who added that the association was disappointed with the “inaccurate  statements” issued by the department and the Business Rescue Practitioners (BRP) regarding the impasse between
the pilots and SAA over the pending lockout.

The department did not respond to requests for comment.

The BRPs issued a 48-hour lock-out notice to take effect from noon today which will affect all 338 pilot members of the association. Members will not be entitled to be paid, accrue or receive any remuneration or benefits for the duration of the lock-out until the pilots accepted various conditions, including a new salary scale.

“The new terms and conditions and salary scales are essential for the new competitive and successful SAA, which will initially require 88 pilots, to become cost-effective,” BRPs Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana noted.

“The new proposed terms include hours of work and rest aligned to the Civil Aviation Authority and will provide SAA a better chance at being a sustainable airline.”

Back said the association had engaged actively with the BRPs and the department since the business rescue began over year ago.

“We have done so in good faith offering extensive expertise and concessions.

“The SAA Pilots Association’s agreements are not the reason why SAA has failed in the financial arena and in transforming the pilot body; that responsibility lies with the shareholder and the management.

“In fact over the last few months, the association has agreed to the majority of the demands made by the company.

“We have agreed to cancel the Regulating Agreement and replace it with a new collective agreement valid for three years.”

Back said they also agreed to salaries reduced by up to 50%. He added that the association did not agree to the unlawful proposal on the retrenchment of pilots based on race.

“The latest actions taken by the company, the BRPs and supported by the shareholder to starve out not only the pilots but all employees in order to force them into signing extremely unfavorable and prejudicial terms, is grossly unfair.”

He said they would not be bullied into submission and were taking legal advice.

Gideon Joubert, a former pilot at Mango airlines, said he hung up his wings in April after the airline refused to pay salaries.

“The work environment was so toxic and after the salary cuts I just decided, I’m out,” Joubert said.

marizkac@citizen.co.za

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.