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By Hein Kaiser

Journalist


SAA pilots’ unusual demand: ‘Retrench us’

This is the first time in SAA’s 85-year history that pilots are going on strike.


The South African Airways Pilots’ Association (Saapa) yesterday issued a strike notice to the airline with a list of somewhat unusual demands where first and foremost, members wish to be retrenched.

The demands follow months of negotiations with the business rescue practitioners (BRPs) and what remained of SAA management to seek, according to Saapa, an amicable solution to the expected mass retrenchment-exit of flight deck crew.

The association’s 350 members say that they have had enough of “goal post moving” by the BRPs and management. This in response to an offer that was tabled by the BRPs last week.

A chat group message in a Saapa’s internal discussion forum, shown to The Citizen, questions why SAA staff members received back pay recently, including pilots, but not Saapa member pilots.

It reads: “Today, they paid every other employee at SAA, other than Saapa members, four months’ back pay. If that does not galvanise us to fight, then I don’t know what will.”

The association declined overtures to receive the payment as “it was contingent on us giving up all our rights and every other claim we have against the company”.

In addition, the conversations in the group hints to one of the reasons that the pilots are going public.

“Lies and more lies. Retrenchment on new [lower salary] scales was never discussed. Never,” said a pilot.

Louise Bruggeman, spokeswoman for the BRPs, says staff were offered four months’ backpay end November last year in full and final settlement. An agreement with staff opting in for same was signed on 29 December.

“Saapa did not sign it.”

In its statement announcing the strike notice, the association says that its members have been “targeted in a vindictive and slanderous fashion”.

The minister said “the SAA Pilots’ Association was sabotaging the relaunch of SAA”.

But Saapa hit back with “the very pilots needed to do the required training are locked out by the company, with the blessing of the DPE, and any attempt Saapa has made to work together with the company, or the BRPs for the past 15 months, has been met with disinterest and our many attempts to assist or reach a compromise have been blocked at every opportunity”.

This is the first time in SAA’s 85-year history that pilots are going on strike. The SAA pilots’ body also includes 31 non-Saap members who are not locked out.

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