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Route cancellations ‘in the best interest of SAA’ – BRPs respond to critics

On Thursday, the rescue practitioners announced the cancellation of some international, regional and domestic routes in a bid to cut costs at the cash-strapped airline.

FILE: SAA planes. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG – After a scathing attack from unions, and comments from government and political parties, the business rescue practitioners (BRPs) at South African Airways (SAA) maintain their actions are aimed at making the embattled airline commercially and operationally sustainable.

On Thursday, the rescue practitioners announced the cancellation of some international, regional and domestic routes in a bid to cut costs.

These include services from Johannesburg to Abidjan via Accra, Entebbe, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Livingston, Luanda, Munich, Ndola, and Sao Paulo at the end of this month.

According to the BRPs, all other domestic destinations, including Durban, East London, and Port Elizabeth would cease to be operated by SAA.

In a statement, Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana said, “The decisions we took and informed the public of this week were taken in the best interests of SAA. They are intended to make the airline commercially and operationally sustainable, free from the requirement of future funding from the Government post the implementation of the restructure.”

On Friday, President Cyril Ramaphosa has questioned the decision, adding that government did not agree with the decision.

“We want to find out what the rationale is, and we want to have a discussion with them because SAA is not only a great symbol for the country but it’s also an economic enabler."

The BRPs said they will continue to engage stakeholders.

“We recognise the concerns raised, especially around the domestic routes. We will continue to engage with stakeholders, with a commitment to include inputs into the final business rescue plan, which is due to be published by the end of this month”.

SAA ROUTE CANCELLATIONS ANGER UNIONS

Unions representing SAA workers have lashed out at business rescue practitioners for failing to consult employees before cancelling 11 routes.

The National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and South African Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) said this decision would have a devastating impact not only on employees but also on their families.

Numsa and Sacca were insisting there were other ways to save the airline instead of cutting routes and threatening job security.

Just last week, the cash-strapped airline received R3.5 billion emergency funding from the Development Bank of Southern Africa.

Numsa's Phakamile Hlubi-Majola feared that the cancellation of routes would result in unfair retrenchments.

“What it effectively means is that SAA in KZN, PE, Durban and East London will be closed down and all workers will have to be retrenched. No consultation, whatsoever, has taken place with labour as required by the law and the BRP has acted in total disregard in relation to the Labour Relations Act instead of consultation.”

Additional reporting by Kgomotso Modise and Mia Lindeque