Johannesburg – The SA Airways Pilots Association (SAAPA) threatened strike action over recent developments at the airline, including the appointment of ‘inexperienced’ Zuks Ramasia as interim CEO.
Ramasia was announced as the ailing airline’s interim CEO following the resignation of Vuyani Jarana earlier this month.
Ramasia previously worked as SAA’s General Manager of Operations.
SAAPA in a statement said recent developments at SAA, including Ramasia’s appointment, were cause for profound distress and concern.
"Whilst SAA made some progress under Jarana, some of the most crucial issues remain unresolved. As a result, our airline has been rendered all but dysfunctional.
"The simple truth is that SAA will not survive unless critical operational and technical deficiencies are immediately addressed by a competent leadership team.
The union went on to say: "SAA needs an interim CEO with the appropriate experience and financial acumen to successfully run a major airline. Unfortunately, Ramasia is not that person
"Furthermore, many members of the current executive management team in place predate the appointment of Jarana as CEO. It is the same team that navigated SAA into its current untenable position."
The union said it had written to the SAA board to express its dismay at the appointment of Ramasia and the retention of SAA’s underperforming management team.
The union is set to meet with the board this week in an attempt to resolve the crisis at SAA.
"Significantly, we are canvassing SAAPA members on the appropriate action to take. At this stage, we cannot rule out embarking on lawful industrial action – for the first time in our 80-year history – to force the necessary changes at SAA.
"SAA pilots will not sit back while the cycle of deterioration is allowed to continue. Like other unions, we have been forced to draw a line in the sand and to prepare to take action.
"Any action we decide upon will not be taken lightly. Our intention is not to add to the airline’s woes; it is to stop the further wastage of taxpayer’s money and, ultimately, to put SAA on the path to recovery.
SAAPA added that it had made it clear to the board and the government, "that we will not accept the scapegoating of pilots that became prevalent in the Dudu Myeni era.
"The pilots of SAA perform an essential role in the airline, and the success of SAA is crucial to us. We are prepared to fight for the future of the airline that so many of us have dedicated our professional lives to."
SAAPA is not the first union to raise issue with recent developments at SAA, with the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and South African Cabin Crew Association picketing last week in protest against a "myriad of issues" at SAA and SAA Technical.
The unions initially gave SAA 48 hours to reinstate Jarana and demanded that he be given the necessary support to implement the struggling airline’s long-term turnaround strategy. This was extended to a week following a meeting with the board.
The unions also said that Thandeka Mgoduso, Martin Kingston, Peter Tshisevhe, and Geoff Rothschild should all be removed from the board, accusing them of enabling corruption, failing their oversight role, interfering with operational issues, and ignoring forensic reports which allegedly flagged wrongdoing.