Finance Minister, Malusi Gigaba

JOHANNESBURG - Gigaba on Friday told legislators there was a need to revisit what SAA pilots get paid as a cost-saving measure, while also tacking transformation and gender progression in the industry.

 “We need to rationalise incentive scheme of our pilots.

“The incentives of the pilots must also deal with gender and racial dimensions. Women pilots at SAA have not been in the industry for long, meaning their pay is less than their male counterparts.

“This means that your most senior captains get to choose which routes they want to fly.

"There is a lot I could say in this regard, which I think I shouldn’t say here because we still have to meet with the board and take a decision on the issue of incentives,” Gigaba said.

Also read: SAA en route to salvation?

The chairperson of SAA, Dudu Myeni, has previously taken aim at the incentives that the national carrier’s pilots get, saying that while the pilots constituted only 12percent of the carrier’s total workforce in SA they accounted for more than 40percent of the airline’s salary bill.

Cathy Bill, the general manager at the SAA Pilots Association (Saapa), said it was not true that pilots were overpaid and enjoyed more bargaining power than the rest of the national carrier's employees.

Same pay

“All pilots at SAA get the same pay and are based on years of service. We do a benchmark exercise every five years and South Africa’s salary measures compared favourably to what is being paid internationally. We use the Hay system to benchmark what is reasonable pay for our pilots,” Bill said.

The organisation said antagonising the pilots meant the risk was high of losing skilled and experienced pilots at SAA.

Saapa said most of the 750 pilots of SAA meet the international requirements to work abroad and have a cumulative total of more than 12000 years of experience at SAA alone.

The national airline is set for a tense face-off with its employees after the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa) and SA Cabin Crew Association (Sacca) staged a march on Friday demanding better pay and working conditions for their members.

Irvin Jim, the general secretary of Numsa, said SAA is also refusing to increase wages for the majority of workers, including the cabin crew, ground staff, cargo staff and technical staff, but it is willing to continue paying out generous packages to the pilots.

“Pilots at SAA are pampered and they receive generous benefits and high salaries at the expense of the majority of workers. Numsa is demanding a freeze in the pay increase of the top 100 managers, including all 800 pilots, so the majority of workers can receive a long overdue pay increase,” Jim said.

SAA said in response to the march by the two unions that it was unclear why Sacca and Numsa had not resorted to using the provisions of the SAA Bargaining Forum Agreement, which provided for the appropriate platform to address demands by any party to the agreement.