SAA will not solve its problems if it does not find a strategic partner, says Solidarity. Photo: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
JOHANNESBURG - Trade union Solidarity has not shelved its plans to file an application to have SAA placed under business rescue, Solidarity deputy chief operating officer Werner Human said yesterday.

The union initially wanted the matter to be heard in the High Court in May, but changed its plans when the troubled airline received a R5billion bailout from the government in order to cover its immediate costs.

Commenting on possible job cuts at the national carrier, Human yesterday said the priority should be to set the company on a sound financial footing. “It is unsettling to talk about job losses in a country that is battling high levels of unemployment. We would like to see a sustainable SAA,” he said.

But he said the union wanted to proceed with plans to put the airline under business rescue.

“The application is ready. We are finalising a few things. It is definitely not off the table. We will make an announcement very soon,” said Human.

Commenting on SAA’s financial woes, he said the airline should seek a strategic partner. “Only that will solve SAA’s problems. Any plan that does not involve a strategic partner is unlikely to work.”

Human was commenting on statements made by SAA chief executive Vuyani Jarana on Johannesburg radio station Talk Radio 702.

During the interview, Jarana said lay-offs as part of a restructuring process were inevitable.

“We are looking at everything. It is under consideration. As we look at procurement benefits, restructuring the staff and the head count is inevitable,” he said.

Jarana said SAA’s focus was on job preservation at this phase and placing employees “in the right space in terms of SAA. I do not see how we will not be able to rationalise the headcount”.

He said the restructuring of the airline would not be implemented willy-nilly. The move was meant to build an organisation fit for growth.

Jarana said SAA was “fixable” in terms of the ratios, revenue and expenses. He said other airlines in the same market as SAA were coping.

“The market is increasing, despite the challenges to SAA. There is growth in the market. If we fix ourselves, we have a chance to participate in the upside,” he said.

UASA’s spokesperson Jannem Goussard said last night the trade union had not discussed the implications of the airline’s restructuring.

But “if SAA decides to embark on retrenchments, it would have to engage with us, even though we currently do not have a recognition agreement with the airline,” Goussard said.