Mixed reaction to appointment of Saunders to helm of SAA
DURBAN - The appointment of Phillip Saunders this week as the interim chief executive of the South African Airways (SAA) has received a mixed reaction.
The SAA Pilots’ Association (Saapa) cheered the appointment of Saunders, while the African Transformation Movement (ATM) criticised it.
The appointment of Saunders comes after 86 percent of SAA’s creditors voted in support of the revised business rescue plan. The new plan will need financing of over R10bn from the government and will see some SAA employees being retrenched while others will be placed on a 12-month temporary layoff scheme.
The SAA Pilots’ Association (Saapa) today said Saunders 'sexperience in the airline industry was encouraging.
“Saapa has repeatedly emphasised the value and necessity of competent leadership with experience in the industry, and we hope that the interim appointment of Saunders marks an important step in the right direction for the airline,” Saapa said.
However, ATM said the appointment of Saunders was an insult to the talented men and women of South Africa in general and to South African senior managers at SAA and blamed his appointment on Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.
“The Saunders appointment represents the continued arrogance of Pravin Gordhan who seems hell-bent not to appoint Africans into any chief executive role. Saunders has not finished even a year at SAA in his current chief commercial officer role yet he is seen as the best candidate to be interim chief executive,” ATM said in a statement today.
It has called on the minister of home affairs to deport Saunders back to the UK as a matter of urgency to create space for a suitably qualified South African.
“South Africa is struggling with high unemployment of more than 30 percent and, therefore, cannot afford to be employing foreign nationals without first achieving full employment
of suitably qualified South Africans,” it said.
ATM also questioned Saunders’ appointment as chief commercial officer in the first place as his experience was based only on the tiny operations in places like Malta and Kuwait.