April 23, 2020
The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) welcomes with a pinch of salt the economic relief measures pronounced by the President of the Republic of South Africa on 21 April 2020. The timing of the announcement, however, has set the tone for saving, reconstructing and reimaging the future of SAA (South African Airways) and its subsidiaries beyond the current health and economic crisis.
The recently proposed austerity measures (cutting domestic and international routes/flights and laying off workers) on the airline prove to be diametrically opposed to the President’s economic vision of South Africa. Proponents of market freedom have turned to the state for intervention with an understanding that left to market, the productive, political and economic relations of capital will collapse. The relief/redistributive measures introduced by government confirm the failure of global neoliberal capitalism as a political choice, ideology, system of governance and regulation. The collapse of the airline in the middle of massive government spending will negatively impact the objective to protect the economy, business, society and livelihoods of the working class. This will subsequently upset the vision of an integrated public transport system that is safe, reliable and affordable.
The restructuring of SAA should be in accordance to social rather than market principles. The Department of Public Enterprise (DPE) including Business Rescue Practitioners (BRP) should align themselves to labours vision for improved working and living conditions, secure life, guarantee jobs and stable incomes for workers. SATAWU maintains the importance of State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) and the nationalisation of basic services such as transportation, healthcare, education, water, housing and sanitation for redistributive purposes. The Coronavirus pandemic exposed the inhumanity of individual liberty, market freedom, privatisation and deindustrialisation. As a crime against humanity, neoliberalism is responsible for devaluing human lives, creating abject poverty, hunger, precarious forms of work and reduced life expectancy.
The disappointing performance of the airline and other SOEs has more to do with policy choice rather than money. Achieving a successful change management process through the implementation of abstract turnaround strategies that neglect organisational culture, behaviour and dynamics is next to impossible. The financial challenges and/or budgetary constraints of the airline emanate from a multiplicity of factors ranging from the absence of required skills and leadership and SAA’s inability to function within its stakeholders mandate and obligation. The Zondo Commission further exposed the shareholders failure to address the looting and corruption within the airline during its embryonic stage. Moreover, the failure of SAA is rooted in bourgeois philosophy which suggests that the working class is incapable of self-governance. SATAWU strongly believes that both organised and unorganised labour as opposed to external consultants have necessary knowledge, skills and abilities to turnaround their workplaces.
As legal entities and public goods, SOEs are established to provide the masses basic services necessary for improving their social and economic conditions. The failure of SOEs confirm their inability to adapt to a political economy detached from providing universal social rights to the majority of its citizens. The Coronavirus should not be used as a scapegoat to punish workers for crimes committed by proponents of free-market orthodoxy. On the contrary, the current health pandemic should assist the government in reversing the devastating effects of a collapsed social and economic system.
SATAWU is confident that the unity of workers and solidarity of all unions organising SAA and other SOEs will bring lasting solutions to the future of the South African proletariat. The concept of public-private-partnership (PPP) must be revised to include labour as a strategic partner in the change process. We hope that our submissions to the DPE on 24 April 2020 will set aside the proposed austerity measures. We envisage that in our negotiations social and human development will supersede principles of market and profit maximisation. It is important that the ruling elite accept that real freedom relies on a political economy designed to serve the interests of its people.
Issue by: Comrade Jack Mazibuko (SATAWU General Secretary): (082) 660-4793
: Comrade Anele Kiet (SATAWU Deputy General Secretary): (073) 684-1912
: Comrade Nelson Lamityi (SATAWU National Sector Coordinator-Aviation) (076) 402-0308