1. Can SAA be rescued? What are your plans for the SAA?
The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) is unequivocal on the fact that South African Airways (SAA) can be saved. On 23 April 2020, the union issued a statement clarifying that the problem with SAA and other struggling SOEs (State Owned Enterprises) had more to do with policy choice, leadership, lack of managerial skills and capabilities as opposed to money. The combination of these factors including years of corruption have had debilitating effects on the financial side of various SOEs but SAA in particular. In the same statement, SATAWU proposed that the airline can only be turned around provided that government shifts its vision from market to social redistributive principles.
Our submission to the DPE (Department of Public Enterprise) on 25 April 2020 outlines that a new vision for SAA is needed. This consists of reformulating the board, redefining the role of the stakeholder, achieve a balance between collective bargaining and codetermination (cooperation between management and labour unions in decision making), and review existing contracts that have negatively affected the airline over the years. It is equally important that the airline address issues of procurement by cutting out all middlemen, absorb and train all employees from the security, cleaning and catering industry etc.
We should draw lessons from successful state-owned airlines such as Ethiopian Airlines. Some of the key lessons include but not limited to addressing the question of routes, executing a majority of tasks in-house as opposed to outsourcing services and investing in employee talents/development.
In summary, there is a need to revise the vision of SAA in line with social redistributive principles aimed at achieving a safe, affordable and reliable transport system.
2. What is the message on Friday going to be?
SATAWU as an affiliate of COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) will align itself to the direction of the Federation. Nonetheless, SATAWU maintains that the Covid 19 pandemic has deepened socio-economic crisis both domestically and globally. This calls on a shift from market regulation to social regulation. The rationale behind this is that the private sector is unable to reform capitalism as an economic and productive relation. State/government intervention is a solution to the current crisis. South Africa for an example will inject R500 billion into the economy to avert a full-blown collapse. The idea that government should delink itself from the market and society has been proven wrong by unfolding/ensuing events. Consequently, a balance between capitalism and social redistribution/ welfarism must be achieved. The welfarism in question is not in a monetary context but that of universal social rights. We believe that this is the correct time to reverse structural inequalities by addressing weaknesses in the public sector. To achieve this government must invest in human and infrastructural development aimed at steering our educational, healthcare, housing and transport system etc. towards a qualitatively different path.
3. What is SATAWU doing to save jobs at SAA and other industries?
SATAWU continues to participate in various industrial structures and engages with different government Ministers in its attempt to save jobs. With reference to SAA, the union is currently in talks with the Minister of Public Enterprise and Business Rescue Practitioners to consider implementing new prescriptions to the crisis at hand. It is indisputable that the economy, in general, is in a state of crisis which suggests a radical shift not only in policy direction but productive and social relations. We are currently forming new work relations with academics, researchers and activists for the purpose of critically diagnosing the general crisis and making recommendations to address them. This crisis is beyond workplace struggles, therefore, we have to engage with diverse role players and sections of society in order to bring lasting socio-economic solutions.
Issue by: Comrade Jack Mazibuko (SATAWU General Secretary): (082) 660-4793