FILE PHOTO: A passenger is seen at the South African Airways (SAA) customer desk at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg
FILE PHOTO: A passenger is seen at the South African Airways (SAA) customer desk at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg

SAA rescue practitioners are threatening to quit the process

By Siphelele Dludla Time of article published Apr 24, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - SAA Business rescue practitioners (BRPs) have threatened to quit the process, plunging the embattled airline further into a crisis, with fears that the next step could be the liquidation of the embattled national carrier.

In a notice published late yesterday, SAA joint rescuers Les Matuson and Siviwe Dongwana said they were now left with only two remaining options to rescue the cash-strapped airline or it would crash land.

Matuson and Dongwa said the options put powers of deciding the future of SAA in the hands of the workers, after the government turned down the practitioners’ request for another R10 billion bailout last week.

The two said the funding would have contemplated the restructuring of the airline to maximise its likelihood to continue on a solvent basis or, at a minimum, care and maintenance until the travel bans were lifted.

The rescuers said the first option entailed a wind-down process with the employment of workers terminated by agreement, with severance packages being agreed. They said this included the selling of assets which would ultimately result in a distribution of proceeds to affected parties in terms of the business rescue waterfall.

Matuson and Dongwa said they could proceed and develop a rescue plan almost five months after it was put under business rescue.

“If an agreement can be reached with the employees, a business rescue plan can be developed and published,” they said.

“If the practitioners cannot reach an agreement with employees, then the practitioners are unable to continue with the business rescue process and the practitioners will have to make an urgent application for an order discontinuing the business rescue proceedings, and placing SAA into liquidation.”

Earlier in the day, the rescuers assured Business Report that SAA employees would be paid their April salaries following fears that the airline would not be able to pay salaries.

SAA workers’ unions have previously rejected the collective agreement for mass retrenchments of 4700 workers at the airline.

But the rescuers said they did not have sufficient funds available to continue honouring the obligations of SAA to its employees beyond April 30, and to bear the costs of the wind-down process.

They said requests to the government for the immediate funding of retrenchment packages had not been successful.

“Accordingly, the wind-down process is dependent on employees accepting the termination of their employment timeously by mutual consent,” they said.

“It is the practitioners’ view that the proposed actions outlined above provide the most responsible way for a managed cessation of the operations of the airline, and managing the risks of all affected parties.”

The rescuers have tasked the chairpersons of the respective committees to attend to any questions that employees and creditors might have by today.

Workers’ unions Numsa and Sacca were yet to respond to media enquiries as they were still consulting their members.


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