By Naledi Shange
Once the dust has settled on the SAA business rescue process, the government wants a “new, financially viable and competitive airline” to emerge.
In a statement on Tuesday night, public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan said the government would work with unions to make this happen.
The government and unions representing SAA staff on Tuesday held tough talks of possible ways to cushion the blow to thousands of staff members, should the ailing state-owned airline indeed have its wings clipped.
A statement from Gordhan revealed that the closure of the airline was discussed, with solutions being presented on how to spring a new, more fruitful airline.
“There was consensus that the unions would work with the government to ensure that a new, financially viable and competitive airline emerges from the business rescue process,” the statement read.
Gordhan said a consultative forum would be established to “advance dialogue and consultation on the process ahead”, and there would be a sharing of ideas on how best to ensure the wellbeing of employees at this challenging time.
There must be no dependence on the fiscus, he added.
“The unions agreed that in arriving at a solution for SAA, some jobs will be lost, and that employees that remain behind will need to sacrifice some of the unaffordable arrangements that had worsened the airline’s financial position,” said Gordhan.
“It was agreed that social plans will be developed to cushion the effect of losing jobs on the affected employees.”
Gordhan, along with his labour and tourism counterparts, held a video conference with unions representing SAA staff members to explore viable solutions for the national carrier, with its in the balance.
The ailing state-owned airline is currently in business rescue. The airline’s business rescue practitioners have sent unions draft proposals on the structured winding down of the airline.
The unions are expected to submit their own restricting proposals to the business rescue practitioners.
“It was further agreed that the matter of SAA is urgent, as peoples’ livelihoods are at stake,” said the public enterprises ministry.
“The unions reiterated that people who were instrumental in the damage caused on the airline through corruption and mismanagement should be held to account.”