Citizen Reporter
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3 minute read
26 Sep 2019
5:21 pm

SAA pilots could go on strike for first time in 80 years

Citizen Reporter

Nine out of 10 of them are not impressed with how the national airline is being managed.

The South African Airways Pilots’ Association (SAAPA) began the process of canvassing its members on their perception of management at South African Airways (SAA) in June this year.

The survey, carried out by an independent service provider, also asked each pilot their view on the appropriate action necessary to ensure a proper turnaround of SAA and to return it to sustainability.

516 out of 635 (or 81%) of the SAA pilots responded to the survey. In the now released figures 91% of pilots said operations management was “poor” to “extremely poor”, 96% were in favour of taking a “proactive stand” to force change at the airline and 90% of respondents were in favour of engaging in protected industrial action to enforce a higher standard within SAA.

It needed to be understood that the decision to embark on industrial action is not one that the pilots of SAA will take lightly.

Indeed, if such a strike is embarked upon, it would be for the first time in SAA’s 80-year history.

“The pilots of SAA and the leadership of SAAPA cannot allow SAA to continue as if it is business as usual. Our numerous engagements with the Company have not yielded outcomes that give us confidence in the future of the airline,” says a statement by SAAPA.

The statement says the skills deficit must be addressed with urgency.

SAAPA claims the vast majority of recent appointments are in an acting capacity reminiscent of the Dudu Myeni era, where appointments were made based on allegiances instead of skills and experience.

In the last 18 months two expensive organisational designs were carried out and yet nothing has been implemented, the statement says. This includes a new acting CEO named in June.

Zuks Ramasia was named the acting CEO for SAA. According to SAA the board has commenced a search, domestically and globally, for a permanent CEO with appropriate experience and expertise to stabilise the company and oversee the implementation of a long-term turnaround strategy. Ramasia was general manager for operations before the appointment.

SAA chairman JB Magwaza said: “We are close to concluding other senior appointments and will make further announcements in due course.”

SAAPA claims SAA management and the board have failed repeatedly to take any of a multitude of promised actions. For this reason, SAAPA sent a letter of demand to the company in August that included the following:

  • The appointment of a CEO within the next 90 days whose previous work experience includes the post of CEO and who has specialised skills and experience in the turnaround of an airline similar in size to SAA.
  • The appointment of a retired or active pilot to the SAA board (to ensure that someone with the required skills, knowledge and experience pertaining to large, jet-powered aircraft operations can provide the necessary guidance and input).
  • The restructuring of flight operations (based on the structure of several world class leading airlines and best practice) that was presented and submitted to the board on behalf of both management pilots and SAAPA, which includes a director of flight operations (DFO) at EXCO level reporting directly to the CEO. The DFO must be selected from the ranks of SAA pilots. SAAPA will be involved in the selection of the DFO and have the right of veto.
  • A skills audit (to be undertaken by an independent party) within the next 60 days of all general managers and Heads of Department, including those in acting positions. The skills audit shall be based on international best practices using Ethiopian Airlines and Lufthansa as a benchmark. The outcome of the skills audit must be acted on and implemented.
  • Compliance with and adherence to our collective agreements, the Regulating Agreement and the Recognition Agreement.

We are convinced that, if these demands are met, SAA can return to its historic status as a leading world airline,” the release concluded.

(Compiled by Adriaan Roets)

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