‘There’s no money for SAA wage de­mand’

Govern­ment won’t get in­volved in dis­pute

Pretoria News - - FRONT PAGE - SIPHELELE DLUDLA siphelele.dludla@inl.co.za

PUBLIC En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han has washed his hands of strike-rid­den SA Air­ways (SAA), telling the na­tional car­rier and unions that the govern­ment could not af­ford the unions’ wage de­mand, as it had no ad­di­tional fund­ing.

SAA act­ing chair­per­son Than­deka Mgo­duso said yes­ter­day that Gord­han told the unions and SAA ex­ec­u­tives that the govern­ment would not get in­volved in the wage dis­pute.

Mgo­duso said Gord­han made it clear that both the Depart­ment of Public En­ter­prises and the Na­tional Trea­sury had no money. Gord­han met the two par­ties in Pre­to­ria yes­ter­day.

Mgo­duso said Gord­han told them that the govern­ment was com­mit­ted only to the R2 bil­lion guar­an­tee that it promised for SAA op­er­a­tions.

“You’ve got to ac­knowl­edge that the fact that the play­ers that will re­solve this are the ex­ec­u­tive and the unions, not the min­is­ter (Gord­han),” Mgo­duso said.

“Even now I’m from the meet­ing with the Depart­ment of Public En­ter­prises, and the state­ment is the same: there is no money. We can’t look to the fis­cus for any­thing. We’ve got to do work and do what needs to be done as a busi­ness.”

Last month, the govern­ment gave SAA a R5.5bn guar­an­tee to stay afloat.

SAA chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer Deon Fred­er­icks said SAA’s lenders had agreed in prin­ci­ple to give the air­line an in­terim fund­ing of R2bn for work­ing cap­i­tal.

Fred­er­icks said the air­line would have to bor­row more money to cover the es­ti­mated R300 mil­lion losses caused by the strike.

“The banks in prin­ci­ple have agreed,” Fred­er­icks said. “The cur­rent debt is R9.2bn, but the share­holder in­di­cated in the medium-term bud­get that it will be re­paid over the next three years. The debt that we will in­cur now is R2bn, but be­cause of the dif­fi­cult op­er­at­ing en­vi­ron­ment and un­in­tended im­pact of the strike, we will have to pro­cure ad­di­tional debt.”

Fred­er­icks said SAA would pub­lish its au­dited fi­nan­cial state­ments for 2018 once it had sat­is­fied the liq­uid­ity sta­tus as a go­ing con­cern by con­clud­ing the R2bn trans­ac­tion and ad­di­tional debt.

This as SAA moved to as­sure the mar­kets that it was on the road to op­er­a­tional re­cov­ery with all in­ter­na­tional flights to eight des­ti­na­tions and some re­gional flights to six des­ti­na­tions back in op­er­a­tion.

How­ever, do­mes­tic flights re­main grounded, and SAA ser­vices were be­ing car­ried out by sis­ter air­line Mango.

Work­ers downed tools at SAA on Fri­day af­ter the air­line an­nounced restruc­tur­ing plans that would re­sult in the loss of more than 900 jobs.

Unions are also de­mand­ing an 8 per­cent salary in­crease, but SAA says it can pay only 5.9 per­cent in March 2020, as­sum­ing funds are avail­able at that time.

SAA act­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive Zuks Ra­ma­sia said some em­ploy­ees had de­cided to re­turn to work, de­spite re­ceiv­ing threats and in­tim­i­da­tion from the union.

Ra­ma­sia said SAA would be ap­proach­ing the Labour Court to in­ter­dict ad­di­tional de­mands and in­tim­i­da­tion by some union mem­bers.

“SAA has in­curred costs re­lated to re­book­ing cus­tomers on other air­lines, claims from cus­tomers, de­nied board­ing com­pen­sa­tion, lost av­er­age daily rev­enue, lost fu­ture sales, air­craft park­ing, SAA Cargo rev­enue losses, and salaries for pilots and cabin crew who are not on strike,” Ra­ma­sia said.

SIMPHIWE MBOKAZI African News Agency (ANA)

SAA ACT­ING chair­per­son Than­deka Mgo­duso says the air­line and the unions can­not ex­pect help from the fis­cus. |

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