DPE backs SAA’s decision to lock out pilots

Administrators issued a 48-hour notice on Wednesday to prevent nearly 400 pilots from accessing the company's premises until they agree to new employment terms and conditions.

SAA plane at O.R. Tambo International Airport. Image: 123rf

JOHANNESBURG - The Department of Public Enterprises said on Thursday it supported the decision by South African Airways (SAA) business rescue practitioners to lock out pilots.

Administrators issued a 48-hour notice on Wednesday to prevent nearly 400 pilots from accessing the company's premises until they agree to new employment terms and conditions.

SAA entered a local form of bankruptcy protection in December last year after roughly a decade of financial losses, and its fortunes worsened after it grounded flights because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Efforts to rescue the state airline face resistance from trade unions, who are at loggerheads with government over wages.

The administrators, who argue that pilots had "very extensive and lavish benefits" said the lockout would affect 383 pilots who are members of the SAA pilots' association.

In a statement, the department said as a shareholder on behalf of government, it believed that one of the critical areas for a restructured SAA to get off the ground was to reduce the high cost structure caused by onerous contracts and high salaries and perks.

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