SAA chairwoman Dudu Myeni. File picture: Bheki Radebe

Johannesburg - SAA plans to take disciplinary action against the pilots who mounted a vote of no confidence against its board chairwoman Dudu Myeni last week, because they have brought the national airline into disrepute.

Business Report understands that the SAA board and management want the pilots disciplined according to the company’s code of conduct to to which all employees are subjected.

According to sources familiar with the matter, SAA’s view is that the no confidence vote – by a cohort of mostly white pilots – was disparaging and cast doubts on the airline’s own internal processes.

Yesterday they confirmed that the investigation into possible charges against the pilots was at an advanced stage and that a decision was imminent.

“We are definitely going to subject them to an internal disciplinary process because what they did was uncalled for,” one said. “SAA must treat all its employees the same, and when they break our internal code they must be subjected to internal processes in terms of our regulations.”

The move follows an unprecedented statement issued by the SAA Pilots Association last week, in which they said they had overwhelmingly passed a vote of no confidence in Myeni and the board.

The association’s chairman, captain John Harty, said after a special general meeting in Johannesburg that the pilots wanted Myeni and the board to resign with immediate effect for flouting their fiduciary responsibilities. Harty said of the 472 pilots who were present in person and by proxy, 457 had voted in favour of a motion of no confidence, two pilots voted against the motion and 11 pilots had abstained.

“The vote was prefaced by a discussion around the precarious financial situation at SAA, the controversial Airbus deal and possible breaches of the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) and/or Company’s Act, the decimation of the board and the executive leadership team, as well as the impact of recent statements made by the chairperson on the authority of the captain of the aircraft,” said Harty, who is due to retire soon.

Drawn out

“The future of SAA requires immediate and urgent attention and a new board, fit for purpose and able to deal with the challenges currently facing the airline should be appointed as soon as possible.”

Myeni dismissed the vote as an anti-transformation ploy, and said she had the support of the board. But her fallout with the pilots now seems set to raise the stakes in what is becoming a long drawn out effort to stabilise the airline.

The pilots’ association seized on her claims before Parliament in September, when she blamed the airline’s poor financial position on what she claimed were excessive salaries. But her assertion was supported by the majority union at SAA, the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu). It branded the move as an attempt by the mostly white pilots association to preserve unnecessary privileges within the airline.

Satawu general secretary Zenzo Mahlangu said the criticism of Myeni’s was not justified as the pilots were a drain on the company.

“Their salary increases are guaranteed at more than 20 percent every year, irrespective of the company’s financial position,” Mahlangu said. “They are paid in dollars, regardless of where they fly in the world. They stay at six-star hotels at the carrier’s expense.”

Meanwhile, on Friday, SAA management gave the president of the SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca), Zazi Nsibanyoni-Anyiam, a week to explain why she should not be subjected to a disciplinary action following her public claims of victimisation and harassment of flight attendants.

Business Report is in possession of the letter signed by the airline’s head of employee relations, Lourens Erasmus, in which SAA questions Nsibanyoni-Anyiam’s decision to act outside of the company policies by going public with her claims.

The letter says Nsibanyoni-Anyiam acted outside the parameters of its bargaining forum and its code of ethics and conduct.

Give reasons

“The company hereby requests Sacca, by the end of business on November 27, 2015, to give reasons for its conduct, including reasons for acting outside the bargaining and engagement process, and to give reasons why the company should not take disciplinary action against Ms Zazi Nsibanyoni-Anyiam; to give reasons why the company should not withdraw access to company communication facilities as provided in clause 15 of the SAA Bargaining Forum Constitution,” the letter states.

Neither Nsibanyoni-Anyiam, Erasmus, nor SAA were immediately available for comment.

But another source within the airliner claimed that Nsibanyoni-Anyiam’s planned suspension was selective, as SAA also needed to take action against the pilots association and Harty for their public statement.

“SAA needs to apply its regulations consistently,” the source said.

“It cannot afford to give the world an interpretation that the pilots are untouchable and, therefore, are above company regulations. People may view such as racism as the pilots association represents mostly white pilots.”

BUSINESS REPORT